Levin Management survey shows continued caution among retailers

North Plainfield, N.J. -- A cooler start to spring and mixed-bag of Memorial Day weekend weather in the Northeast may have contributed to less than expected year-to-date sales and traffic for some retailers, according to Levin Management’s annual mid-year Retail Sentiment Survey, which polled retailers in the firm’s 90-property, 12.5 million-square-foot shopping center portfolio.
“Coming off a positive year in 2012, retailers were predicting that 2013 would maintain a strong pace,” noted Matthew K. Harding, Levin Management’s president. “It looks like performance for many of our survey participants came in below expectations, and they have become more cautious in terms of expectations. The good news is nationwide retail performance has been steady, and with continued improvement in the economy and consumer confidence, retailer optimism is likely to increase in our region through the balance of the year.”

The pace of hiring during the first half of 2013 and the positive impact of e-commerce appear to be heating things up in time for summer. Year-to-date hiring among respondents to the Levin Management survey shows significant improvement over the past few mid-year surveys. Asked whether they have added staff so far in 2013, 33.3% of participants responded “yes.” This compares to 26.2% in the 2012 mid-year survey and 12.6% in the 2011 mid-year survey.

Looking ahead, 27.5% of the Levin respondents expect to add staff in the coming months, down from 36.1% in the 2012 mid-year survey. Plans to open new stores also dropped to 23.3% “yes” from 27.5% last year.
“As with sales expectations, ‘caution’ seems to be the mantra when it comes to hiring and expansion through the second half of 2013,” Harding noted. “Still, the improvement in year-to-date hiring percentages is excellent news – both within our sample poll and the national arena.”

In other survey findings:

  • The industry has embraced mobile marketing; 85.1% of respondents reported the use of technology (via mobile apps and social media) to attract customers;
  • 5.5%  f participants reported that Internet sales are having a positive impact on their business (a jump from 26.8% last year);
  • 11.4% reported a negative impact (down slightly from 12.5% last year); and
  • 43.2% reported no impact (a significant drop from 60.6% last year).

“E-commerce will continue to gain traction,” Harding noted. “Yet stores initially bracing for a negative hit now appear to be increasingly positive about the impact of the Internet. We are seeing more and more retailers using ecommerce as a compliment to their physical stores – and vice versa. They are looking for ways to drive sales to both platforms."

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