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Barnes & Noble expands BN.com Marketplace

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York City — Barnes & Noble said Thursday it has expanded its BN.com Marketplace, adding over one million new products to the catalog.

The retailer also announced online third-party partnerships with Wayfair.com, Right Start, UnbeatableSale.com, School Specialty, Abe’s of Maine, Delivery Agent and more.

BN.com Marketplace has introduced five new categories including Home and Gift, Consumer Electronics, Arts and Crafts, Toys and Games and Baby.

“The expansion of BN.com Marketplace is an organic extension of our consumer value proposition,” said John Foley, president of eCommerce, Barnes & Noble. “If shoppers are buying cookbooks from BN.com, it’s natural to offer them cooking supplies at the same time; if shoppers are buying new baby books, it’s natural to offer them baby supplies as well; and so on across all of our categories. In this way, we can offer our valued customers a one-stop shopping destination.”

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Wal-Mart’s Massmart acquisition faces South Africa court appeal

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Cape Town, South Africa — A Thursday report by Bloomberg said that South Africa’s Competition Appeal Court began hearing a government lawsuit filed to compel regulators to review a decision allowing Wal-Mart Stores to acquire 51% interest in Massmart Holdings Ltd.

The Competition Tribunal ruled on May 31 that Wal-Mart could proceed with the deal on condition no jobs are cut for two years and the companies set up a $12.4 million fund to assist local suppliers and manufacturers. The government objected, saying the conditions were inadequate to protect the economy and prevent a surge in imports undermining manufacturing output.

The court challenge is focused on the procedure that was adopted by the Competition Tribunal in making its decision, according to Bloomberg’s report, which cited comments by Heather Irvine, a director at law firm Norton Rose. The retailers provided inadequate information about their product sourcing, meaning “the tribunal was unable to make a proper decision on the effects of the merger and what conditions should be imposed,” Irvine said.

Both retailers are opposing the appeal and the review.

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NRF survey: Average holiday spending expected down from last year

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — The National Retail Federation’s 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch and released Wednesday, found that holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of $704.18 on holiday gifts and seasonal merchandise, down slightly from last year’s $718.98.

NRF is still forecasting overall holiday retail sales to grow 2.8% during the months of November and December to $465.6 billion.

Additionally, 59.9% say they plan to take advantage of retailers’ sales and discounts to make additional non-gift purchases for themselves and their families during the holiday season. The average person will spend approximately $130.43 during the holiday season to take advantage of sales and discounts on apparel, electronics, home goods and other items for themselves or a family member, up from $112.20 last year.

“When it comes to retail growth this holiday season, slow and steady wins the race – and the same is true for shoppers, who are meticulously calculating the best ways to stretch their dollar,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Knowing their customers are more focused than ever on value, retailers will entice shoppers with promotions that go beyond discounts, whether they’re promoting free gifts with purchase, an extended warranty, or stellar customer service.”

According to the survey, the largest portion of a consumer’s holiday budget will go toward gifts for family members, with the average person expected to shell out $403.26 on kids, parents and other family members. Shoppers will spend an average of $68.23 on friends, $21.06 on co-workers, and $23.39 on other gifts. Consumers will also spend on decorations ($46.73), greeting cards ($26.52), candy and food ($96.75), and flowers ($18.23.)

The survey found that department stores, with unique private-label offerings, will see an increase in traffic over last year (56.9% vs. 54.5% last year), as will clothing or accessory stores (35.2% vs. 33.6% in 2010), drug stores (21.1% vs. 18.9% last year), and grocery stores and supermarkets (48.8% vs. 46.7% last year), and most will head to discount stores (66.1% vs. 65.1%.) Crafts and fabric stores will benefit from those looking to make personal and thoughtful gifts (17.5% vs. 16.1% in 2010).

For the fifth year in a row – and at the highest level in the survey’s history – 57.7% of shoppers say they’d like to receive a gift card this holiday season. Other items on consumers’ wish lists include clothing or clothing accessories (50.0%), consumer electronics or computer-related accessories (35.4%) jewelry (22.8%) and personal care items (19.3%).

When asked which one factor will be most important when shopping this holiday season, sales or price discounts largely win out (41.6%), but customer service (6.0% vs. 5.3% last year) and quality of merchandise (14.6% vs. 12.7% in 2010) are continuing to become more vital components in consumers’ decision making processes, highlighting the growing importance of value when it comes to gift and everyday shopping.

More people will seek out retailers’ holiday deals on the Internet this year; nearly half (46.7%) will buy online, up from 43.9% last year. Additionally, the average holiday shopper plans to do 36% of their shopping online – whether they’re comparing prices, researching products, or actually making a purchase. Online shoppers plan to spend more as well – the average person who will shop online this holiday season will spend about 22% more than those consumers who only plan to shop in stores. Adults aged 25-34, many of whom have small children and crave convenience, will complete 43.7% of their holiday shopping online, the most of any age group.

Each year, nearly 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween, and this year is no different with 38.9% of celebrants having already begun or planning to begin holiday shopping before Oct. 31. Another 40% will begin shopping in November, 17% will hit the stores the first two weeks in December and 4.1% will procrastinate until the final two weeks of December.

According to the survey, 62.2% of Americans say the U.S. economy will affect their holiday spending plans. To compensate, consumers are expected to comparison shop to save a few dollars. The survey found 5.7% said they would comparative shop using their mobile device more often, up from 3.7% in 2010, and nearly one-third (32.1%) will comparative shop online more often, up from 30.9% last year.

With more mobile applications for smartphones and tablets available now, consumers have jumped at the efficiency and convenience of these new shopping channels. For the first time this year, NRF and BIGresearch polled consumers about their intentions to use smartphones and tablets to research and purchase holiday items. According to the survey, half (52.6%) of those who own a smartphone said they will use their device to research products, redeem coupons, use apps to assist in their purchase, and purchase holiday gifts and items. Specifically, nearly one-third (31%) say they will research products and/or compare prices, 14.1% will purchase products, 17.3% will redeem coupons and 15.6% will use apps to research or purchase items. One-quarter (25.1%) of smartphone owners will use their phone to look up a retailer’s information such as store hours and location.

Seven in 10 (70.5%) tablet owners will research and shop using their device. According to the survey, half (50.8%) of those with tablets will research products and/or compare prices, and more than one-third (34.8%) will actually make a purchase with their device. Tablet owners will also redeem coupons (21.5%), look up retailer information (33.8%) and use apps to research items or purchase products (21%).

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