BDO Survey: Retail CFOs project 3.2% increase in sales in 2013

Chicago -- Extended store hours Thanksgiving weekend promotions were the least successful holiday marketing tactics, according to a survey of retail CFOs by BDO USA. The also report found that, following uneven sales results in December and January, the executives are moderating their expectations for 2013, projecting a 3.2% increase in total store sales, down from last year’s expected 4.5% increase.

Similarly, the CFOs anticipate a 2.3% increase in same-store sales this year, down from last year’s projected 4.1% growth. While concerns over consumer confidence are likely driving these more conservative projections, the increase comes on top of 2012’s strong 4.2% growth. Moreover, only 7% of CFOs say they expect their total sales to decrease this year, a sign that retailers see the industry stabilizing.
“The mixed results of the past few months have retailers looking ahead with caution,” said Doug Hart, partner in the Retail and Consumer Products practice at BDO. “But they no longer fear the worst-case scenario. As housing markets and other influencers of consumer confidence improve, the possibility of a decline in sales grows less likely.”
With economic concerns lessening, retailers are focusing on adapting to the new normal in consumer behavior: online shopping. Two-thirds (66%) of CFOs say they include online sales in their comparable store sales reports, and e-commerce is also occupying a larger piece of the sales pie. Nearly three-in-four CFOs (74%) expect their e-commerce sales to increase this year, and on average, retailers anticipate a 6.9% increase in online sales in 2013.
These findings are from the seventh-annual BDO Retail Compass Survey of CFOs, which examined the opinions of 100 CFOs at leading retailers located throughout the country. The retailers in the study were among the largest in the country. The survey was conducted in January and February of 2013.

Other major findings of the BDO survey include:

Consumer confidence remains unstable as tax concerns persist: Consumer confidence fluctuated substantially over the course of 2012, and started 2013 at a one-year low. With consumers watching the ongoing deficit and debt conversation unfold in Washington and seeing little substantial job growth, they are feeling the fragility of economic recovery.

Retail executives are all too aware of the tenuous economic situation and are carefully watching the leading influencers of consumer confidence: 40% cite unemployment levels as the top factor influencing consumer confidence, while 24% and 18% cite tax increases and personal credit availability, respectively.

When asked which tax changes concern them most in the coming year, 23% of CFOs cite individual income taxes, second only to corporate taxes (30%).

Mobile engagement is here to stay amid push to omni-channel retailing: If the 2012 holiday season is any indication, mobile engagement has become a cornerstone of retail operations. Consumers can expect to see ongoing engagement via these channels, with 60% of retailers planning to maintain their investment in mobile for 2013 and 38% planning to increase it.

-Holiday post-mortem reveals that digital promotions are overtaking old-fashioned advertising. As the New Year begins, retail executives are analyzing holiday strategies to determine what worked best. In 2012, some of the most successful campaigns like Gap’s “Pin to Win” promotion engaged customers via online channels.

One-third of CFOs cite email and social media promotions as a top strategy in 2012 and 16% cite free shipping. And with consumers still very focused on deals, promotional discounting remains a stalwart of holiday strategy, with 29% of CFOs indicating that it was their most successful strategy last year.

When asked about the least successful tactics, on the other hand, 41% cite extended store hours and 22% cite Thanksgiving weekend promotions.

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