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The Carson effect evident at Books-A-Million

BY Mike Troy

Guest appearances by Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson at Books-A-Million stores gave the retailer a modest sales lift in the third quarter.

The company said its sales increased 0.4% to $101.6 million and same store sales increased 1.6%, thanks in part to appearances by Republication presidential contender Dr. Ben Carson. However, signs of life on the top line did not translate to bottom line improvement as Books-A-Million reported a loss of $7.1 million, or 50 cents a share, that was in line with a loss from the prior year.

“We saw improved sales in our core book and general merchandise categories, led by the positive impact of the growing coloring book trend,” said Books-A-Million President and CEO Terrance G. Finley. “We also hosted several author events, namely those highlighting Dr. Ben Carson, which helped drive incremental sales in the quarter. We are looking forward to the holiday season and our entire team is focused on getting our stores ready to serve our customers in the weeks ahead.”

If Books-A-Million benefitted from an appearance by Dr. Carson, it will needs the entire roster of Republican candidates and even Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton to show up for book signings in the fourth quarter to dig out of the hole the company has dug for itself after the first three quarters.

The operator of 257 stores in 32 states said sales declined 0.6% to $311.3 million and same store sales increased 0.1% during the first three months. The company’s loss worsened to $18.2 million, or $1.28 a share, from a loss of $15.5 million, or $1.08 a share, during the first three months of 2014. Included in the loss figures for the first nine months is a $2.1 million expense, equal to 15 cents a share, related to the family controlled company’s July 13 merger agreement to take the company private for $3.25 a share. Shareholders are scheduled to vote on the transaction on Dec. 7.

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Heading into the holiday rush, these retailers are tops in social engagment

BY Marianne Wilson

A department store and a beauty specialty retailer have the best momentum in social media going into the holiday season. Meanwhile, an online giant is losing steam.

That’s according to an annual analysis by audience intelligence provider Shareable, which reviewed the social media performance of big-box and department store retailers in the lead up to Black Friday (Nov. 1 through Nov. 24 ). For the second consecutive year, Nordstrom came in first in social engagement, with 2.3 millions actions (metric include all post-level likes, shares, retweets, reblogs, dislikes and comments on Facebook, Twitter. Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube), up 119% over the year-ago period.

The actions were generated by a total of 120 posts, tweets and media postings. Many of Nordstrom’s posts contained a close-up photo of a product and a short description, often fewer than five words.

Nordstrom achieved its results with 5.6 million fans and followers. The retailer downplayed the mention of Black Friday in its postings as did other retailers, Overall, posts featuring Black Friday deals decreased year over year by 32% on Facebook and 27% on Twitter.

Sephora scored second overall in social engagement, with 1.9 million actions, generated by 146 postings.
Rounding out the top 10: Kohl’s, Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Ulta Beauty, Barneys, Home Goods, Cabela’s and Neiman Marcus.

As for Amazon, its engagement dropped 65% comparing November 2015 with the same period last year, falling out of the top 10 from the number two spot in 2014. Target, iTunes and Saks Fifth Avenue also moved out of the top 10 this Black Friday season.

In other notable findings:

  • Guitar Center is the top brand ranked by actions on social video (123 thousand actions), followed by Barnes & Noble (92 thousand actions), and Walmart (57 thousand actions)
  • Of the top 10 retailers, Ulta saw the highest social growth at 128% in November, driven by a 160% growth in likes and comments on Instagram.
  • Among the top 10, Cabela's scored the top post (90.8 thousand actions) related to the Thanksgiving holiday announcing its stores would be closed on Thanksgiving Day

To see the complete top 10 rankings, click here.

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Retailers make holidays a social occasion

BY Dan Berthiaume

The holidays are becoming an increasingly social event, as evidenced by the promotional campaigns of two major department store chains this season.

According to Adweek, both Target and Macy’s are heavily leveraging a variety of social media platforms to engage consumers for the 2015 holiday season. Target has increased the percentage of its overall paid media spend represented by social to 12%, up 30% from about 9% in 2014.

Specific platforms Target is using for its holiday campaign include Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. On Snapchat, Target is providing a Thanksgiving-themed geofilter that lets consumers place Thanksgiving graphics on top of their photos. Starting Dec. 1, Target will offer a new holiday-themed geofilter each day up to Dec. 25.

Other Target social promotions include the use of Facebook “Canvas” multimedia mobile ads to provide full-screen displays of its Wonderpacks arts and crafts product. In addition, Target is employing Instagram “Marquee” ads that allow it to reach large amounts of Instagram users with sets of three promotional clips in short bursts of time. Using Marquee, Target can track who opened an initial clip and then follow up with the second one.

On the more upscale side of the department store vertical, Macy’s is also planning to use Instagram Marquee throughout the day on Wednesday, Nov. 25. Macy’s will also target Facebook users who viewed the Instagram videos. In addition, Macy’s will deliver targeted Facebook ads to consumers who engage with its Black Friday and Cyber Monday content.

Both Target and Macy’s are recognizing the increasing importance of both social media and visual content to the modern customer experience. Today’s shoppers live on social media and prefer to view images and videos rather than read text. Retailers can either respond accordingly or be left struggling to make it to the 2016 holiday season.

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