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Holiday Shopping Season is In Full Swing

January 22, 2013

•Black Friday has come and gone, which means holiday shopping is in full swing. So will the 2012 gift-giving season be merry and bright?

Ahead of the holiday season, retailers were bullish. According to a survey released in September by the Hay Group, a global management consultancy, 75% of retailers forecasted an increase in holiday sales this year.

In addition, retailers also reported more confidence in holiday hiring plans. While 57% of retailers plan to hire seasonal workers at the same level as 2011, 36% said they would be hiring more, a shift from 2011 when just 10% planned to hire more seasonal workers than the year prior.

“Retailers are betting big on the 2012 holiday season,” said Craig Rowley, vice president and global practice leader for Hay Group’sRetail practice, upon release of the survey data. “After four years of economic turbulence, they have figured out how to operate in an uncertain business environment, and are calm and cool, rather than concerned, as they head into the holidays.”

The survey was released before the US Presidential Election and Superstorm Sandy rocked the East Coast.

Online sales will continue to play a larger role in consumer shopping. Following 10 individual days with more than $1 billion in online sales during the 2011 holiday season (as reported by comScore), retailers have also adjusted e-commerce strategy this year, according to Hay Group. After planning throughout the year, fulfillment centers are more prepared and only minor staffing adjustments are needed for the holidays.

In terms of holiday promotion, although heavy discounting has been a hallmark of the holidays during the past few years, promotional and inventory strategies are fine-tuned this year, according to Hay Group. Retailers have successfully spread out promotions to trigger more sales throughout the season, and 31% reported that they will start promotions even earlier this year. The majority (58%) of retailers said they planned to wait until November to begin their promotion blitz, while 42% planned to start in October—well before Black Friday.

“All things considered, retailers are on the ‘nice list’ this year,” said Maryam Morse, national reward practice leader of Hay Group’s Retail practice. “One of the lessons learned during the downturn was that stores need to be able to respond more quickly to shifting market conditions and consumer preferences. Now, inventory is better managed, the supply chain is more effective and retailers have a clear plan for markdowns. With sales improving, retailers are placing more emphasis on retaining and rewarding employees and identifying career paths for top talent.”

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Comparing Brand Names and Private Label in Detergent, HBA

• According to The Checkout, an ongoing shopper behavior study conducted by The Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research, certain demographics (76% of African-American shoppers compared to 69% of shoppers in general) say laundry detergent is a category in which brand name is very important to them. In addition, health and beauty is also a category where shoppers prefer a brand name to a private label, with 74% of Hispanic shoppers and 65% of general shoppers stating this.

“Certain categories appear to be immune to the store-brand swap,” said Craig Elston, senior vice president, Integer. “Categories that offer shoppers frequent innovations such as performance or variety, and categories where personal stakes are higher, are more difficult areas for private label products to compete.”

When it comes to quality perception, brand names have maintained a slight advantage over private labels. The prevailing factor is trust, with 51% of shoppers indicating that they continue to buy brand name products over store-brand alternatives because they trust the brand.

With fewer shoppers purchasing private labels from two years ago, retailers are working hard to build brand identities and nicer packaging for their private labels which is blurring the perceived lines of quality, and based on this survey, shoppers are taking notice—with a 14% decline since 2010 in the number of shoppers who think brand-name packaging is more attractive than private-label packaging.
Categories with little innovation or new product introductions tend to be easier for private label brands to compete. For example, 68% of shoppers prefer private label brands in the over-the-counter medicine category. As less innovation makes it easier for private labels to imitate brand names in this category, retailers are taking advantage of printing “compare to” lines on their packaging and noting the brand name for comparison.

Data forThe Checkoutcame from a national survey conducted by Integer and M/A/R/C during which consumers were asked about their shopping attitudes, shopping behaviors, and economic outlook.

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Fat’s Where the Money’s At

• So much for all those creams and lotions—how about passing on that baked potato or slice of cake? When most American women aged 25 and older look in the mirror, the majority can find one or two things they would like to improve about their appearance.

In fact, according to a new survey of more than 1000 American women commissioned by Syneron Medical, fewer than one in ten women (8%) are very satisfied with their current appearance. So what improvements on the face or body ranked the highest on women’s wish list today? Seven in ten women admit they are most worried about developing a tummy bulge now and in the future (66%) as opposed to long reigning champion—wrinkles and/or fine lines—now (50%), and in the future (57%).
“It has been a long-held belief that a flawless complexion represents youth and beauty. With the rise of pop culture and the focus on shapely bodies, this perception has shifted beyond a perfect face to include the perfect body as well,” said Tina Alster, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C. “Fortunately, most American women today are conditioned to believe that living a healthy lifestyle yields many rewards in appearance, both for the face and the body. But for many women, despite avoidance of carbs and regular exercise, there remain certain body areas that still trouble them.”

American women’s perception of their bodies is a year round concern, in or out of clothes. In fact, 73% of respondents admit that if they were to come into some money, they would be more likely to invest in a better body shape before a designer wardrobe.

How Hurricane Sandy Impacted Shopping In the Northeast US

Sandy’s downed trees and utility poles made it hard to travel, much less shop. Photo: FirstEnergy Corp.
• For the week ending Nov. 3, 2012, The Shopping Activity Weekly Holiday Trends report from The NPD Group shows that 57% of US consumers went shopping at brick-and-mortar retail stores, a level similar to October.Approximately 66% of these shopping visits resulted in a purchase in the most recent week, which was up 1% point from the prior week.

But the impact of Hurricane Sandy was evident in the Northeast region (inclusive of hardest hit states New Jersey, New York and Connecticut) where brick-and-mortar shopping visits were down 7% to when compared to the average number of shopping visits over the five prior weeks, noted NPD. Online buying visits that occurred in the Northeast also declined by 4% when compared to the average of the prior five weeks. Shopping conversion in this region for brick-and-mortar was at 65% in the past two weeks surrounding the storm, which are the highest levels of conversion in this region since we began tracking in early October.

“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy there have been widespread and lengthy power outages in the northeast. The region will try their best to get back to business but there is just one other minor hurdle to overcome that was never anticipated—the absence of gas,” stated Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc. “Retailers that may have dodged the initial impact of Sandy are now faced with this challenge and the losses of sales in and around the areas hit hardest have this unexpected layer to deal with.”

NPD’s Shopping Activity Services fields an online study to 4,750 US consumers daily, capturing shopping and online purchase behaviors in general merchandise channels. It excludes grocery, drug, gas, convenience and restaurant chains.

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