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Five Lessons Learned for Increasing Holiday Sales This Year

Guest Blog by Shelley E. Kohan

Many of us have been retailers for a long time. Once upon a time, we wrote sales checks (yes, with a pen) and calculated labor hours using manual time sheets. But what has always set us apart has been our unique, innate ability for instinct and intuition. We have remained in the business successfully by making decisions based on our experiences in the field.

We are retail warriors. Occasionally, we will back up our decisions with data. Having jumped on the technology bandwagon for the past decade, I am surprised to find that what we know and what we do about it may sometimes be very different. A case in point is the following post-2011 holiday analysis, which reveals some staggering insights from retail warriors across the United States.

As we enter the 2012 holiday season, here are some insights to help deploy your resources more effectively for increased sales to drive this year’s performance. After analyzing more than 40 U.S. retail store chains’ performance and examining the in-store behaviors of more than 20 million shoppers between Thanksgiving weekend and Dec. 31, 2011, here’s what we found:

1.     Don’t Underestimate First Weekends in November.

Retailers are missing early season traffic by not having enough staff the first two weekends in November. Many retailers extend their existing staff first before hiring new associates, or new hires start but do not hit the selling floor until the third week of November. Hired, trained sales associates need to be on the floor and ready to sell by the first Saturday of November.

2.     The Post-Christmas Sale Is No Joke.

The time after the Christmas holiday remains a great opportunity for most retailers. Shoppers continues to hit the stores only to find the holiday help is gone! Obviously, conversion drops due to returns, making it difficult to maximize sales and service. However, the store traffic still represent a “selling opportunity” − especially with the escalating trend of gift cards as holiday gifts.

Am I crazy to suggest one and two above? Do I get that payrolls are tight and stores simply cannot add expense? (Of course I do, I’m a retail warrior.) In-store analytics extract the details from the data and provide you with the knowledge to maximize the nuggets of information you discover. Simply adding staff will not give you a full return on investment for the suggestions above. Instead, do the following:

3.     Shift Staffing Hours.

Move hours out of the middle of the week when most retailers are over-staffed. Also, hire in shifts or increments to accommodate the high weekend traffic in November. By looking at the by-hour and by-day traffic-to-conversion comparison, there will be opportunities to shift staffing to when you need it most.

4.     Treat Dec. 26 Like Black Friday. 

Most retailers experience similar traffic on Dec. 26 as they do on Black Friday. Make it all-hands-on-deck. (We think we do, but it’s worth double-checking staff hours for this day.)

5.     The New Year’s Eve Holiday is Marketing’s Best-Kept Secret.

Shoppers are still out in the stores and want to shop. Give them incentives to buy! Create events in the store to drive traffic and conversion.

The overwhelming majority of holiday buying still occurs in brick-and-mortar stores – 95.5 percent of it, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. To all the retail warriors out there, let’s decide to make it an even bigger 2012 – armed with our killer instincts and the supporting data.

Shelley E. Kohan is vice president of retail consulting at RetailNext and has more than 20 years of experience in the retail industry, focused on luxury brands within the department and specialty store sector. She also is an instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology of the State University of New York in the fashion merchandising management program. She can be reached at shelley@bviretailnext.com.

Retail Merchandiser magazine is pleased to present the points of view of many different industry stakeholders. If you would like to contribute your own guest blog to our site, please contact the editor at russ.gager@phoenixmediacorp.com.

 

 

 

Interest Growing in Mobile Point-of-Sale

Guest Blog By Dana Warszona

The evolution of retail has hinged around the ability to buy and sell goods in the most efficient way. Today, it’s all about consumers and ensuring their shopping experience is engaging, seamless and convenient. Shoppers have higher expectations and retailers must find ways to continue improving customer service in the store – especially during peak periods. In response to this demand, retailers are deploying mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) technology as a strategy for improving customer satisfaction and streamlining in-store operations.

Motorola Solutions conducted a survey among the retail, hospitality and field service industries that revealed the interests and experiences with the use of mPOS. The results illustrated that retailers are beginning to embrace mPOS as a means for delivering increased customer service and payment convenience, while gaining opportunities to close the sale. For example, 71 percent of retailers surveyed indicate an interest in mPOS and are using or planning to use it to improve customer service, inventory management, pricing and merchandise returns applications.

Additionally, mPOS provides retailers with the opportunity to potentially eliminate the high cost of traditional cash registers and accept customer payments from anywhere in the store. This not only reduces customers’ time spent waiting in line, but also decreases time they might spend pondering their purchasing decision. The result is an improvement in the bottom line, because retailers are in a better position to close the sale. Below are a few other key findings from the survey:

  • Sixty-six percent of retail respondents are interested in mPOS, while 42 percent of retail respondents are currently piloting or starting trials within the next 36 months, and the majority is focused on using mPOS for sales associates on the store floor or line-busting.
  • In December 2011, Motorola’s holiday shopper survey found that one-third of store visits ended with an average of $125 unspent due to missed opportunities to purchase. The survey also found that inefficient payment processes were one of the leading contributors to those lost sales. More than 43 percent of shoppers agreed that their shopping experience improved when store associates used mPOS devices.
  • Sixteen percent of surveyed retailers currently have an mPOS solution deployed, while less than 9 percent have completely mobile checkout systems.
  • On average, retail respondents anticipated replacing more than 36 percent of their fixed POS as a result of migrating to an mPOS

Shopping today is truly becoming an interactive experience. The retailers that embrace connectivity and engagement will be those that win the hearts and wallets of shoppers.

Dana Warszona is the senior marketing manager of retail solutions at Motorola Solutions.

Retail Merchandiser magazine is pleased to present the points of view of many different industry stakeholders. If you would like to contribute your own guest blog to our site, please contact the editor at russ.gager@phoenixmediacorp.com.

Touring Chicago’s High-end Retail Scene

By Russ Gager

The differences in luxury retailing were highlighted during a tour of three major high-end shopping malls on Chicago’s “Magnificent Mile” – Michigan Avenue – at the conclusion on Oct 2 of the 2012 Research Connections conference held by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).

Tour attendees were given guided tours of the malls by representatives of their management companies. First up was The Shops at Northbridge, which uses its innovatively designed mall to draw shoppers from the pricey rents of Michigan Avenue to the Nordstrom that anchors the rear of the mall, which is located one block behind Michigan Avenue on a street with more reasonable rent.

Since 2008, The Macerich Co. has owned and managed all the retail within the nine-block Northbridge complex that includes several hotels, office buildings and another retail complex. Approximately 30,000 hotel rooms are near The Shops at Northbridge, so the mall attracts both visitors and residents. Macerich has created promotions to increase residents’ use of the mall and is using a temporary promotion by Cadillac to spur sales.

The next stop was further down Michigan Avenue across Michigan Avenue from the historic Water Tower, which survived the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Named Water Tower Place, the mall is managed by General Growth Properties (GGP). Built in 1976, GGP replaced a former Lord and Taylor with a series of stores in 2008.

The prime first-floor space opposite Macy’s was leased to American Girl Place, and as the vertical shopping mall ascends, retailers like Adidas have taken over Lord and Taylor’s former space to draw shoppers to the back of higher floors. Eleven new retailers were introduced in 2008 to the mall, and GGP says it has introduced new stores to 60 percent of the mall. Level 2 is for families, with a Lego store next to American Girl Place’s second floor. Level 6 is for teens and has acquired popularity on social media as a meeting place.

The final stop was at the 900 North Michigan Shops, which is anchored by Bloomingdale’s in the rear of the mall. The mall features high-end, exclusive shops, some from London and other unique ones from local entrepreneurs. Managed by JMB Financial Advisors LLC, the mixed use structure also houses a Four Seasons Hotel, 300,000 square feet of office space and 154 luxury condominiums in two towers.

Approximately 30 percent of the mall’s sales are from residents, JMB says. The mall is noticeably quieter with a lower level of retail traffic and tourists than Water Tower Place, but JMB says the shoppers have a higher per capita level of consumption.

Smaller groups of ICSC attendees ventured out of the Fairmont Hotel where the meeting was held to explore nearby State Street’s new Walgreens concept store, the new City Target in the historic Carson Pirie Scott and Co. building and the historic Macy’s – formerly Marshall Field and Co. – along with the variety of retail options within walking distance.

Russ Gager is the editor-in-chief of Retail Merchandiser magazine. He can be reached at russ.gager@phoenixmediacorp.com.

 

Work Harder and Innovate in Slow Times

By Russ Gager

Although shopping centers and malls may be built out in the United States, there still are opportunities to renovate them and take them more upscale through the addition of new tenants and improved amenities, David Contis, president of Simon Property Group told the 235 attendees at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) at the 2012 Research Connections conference at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago Oct 1.

With 164 malls worldwide and 34 properties, Simon Property Group is adding upscale tenants and sliding doors, better seating and bathrooms, and children’s playgrounds to more than half of its retail portfolio to improve the properties’ market shares, Contis said in a wide-ranging discussion moderated by John Riordan, ICSC past president and lifetime trustee.

Contis also is bullish on incorporating mobile retailing into the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. He pointed out that Amazon.com wants a retail store and Apple relies on them. “At the end of the day, the Internet is moving more in our favor,” Contis asserted. “People still want to touch the merchandise.”

He used as an example a banner that pops up on a retailer’s website when a customer is ordering online that asks whether the customer would like to pick up the item at a nearby mall’s store instead of shipping it. Contis also pointed out how Apple uses its in-store computer classes to soft-sell additional hardware and software, something it cannot do on the Internet. Geofencing can be used to restrict customers’ in-store Wi-Fi access, he said, but he stressed positive synergies with online and mobile retailing.

Contis acknowledged the current trends toward building and converting malls to lifestyle centers and outlet malls or hybrids of conventional and outlet stores, but predicted that growth of those eventually would slow. He also praised the growth of retailing in Brazil and China, and the collection of sales taxes on Internet purchases to level the playing field with brick-and-mortar stores. Overall, his message was to take advantage of the changes in retailing by innovating rather than trying to block, ignore or reverse them.

Russ Gager is the editor-in-chief of Retail Merchandiser magazine. He can be reached at russ.gager@phoenixmediacorp.com.