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Consumers increasingly optimistic about economy

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — Experian Marketing Services said Monday that its Consumer Expectation Index shows an increasing optimism about the economy. According to the CEI, U.S. consumers’ forward-looking view of the economy is at its highest level since the onset of the recession. During the first half of 2012, the average CEI figure was 92.7, which is above the index’s average of the first six months for each year dating back to 2008. The 2012 figure measured eight points above those for the first half of 2008 and one point over those for the first half of 2011.

The CEI figures for the first half of 2012 show confidence among consumers planning to buy a new home within the year at its highest level since the onset of the recession. During the first half of 2012, the average CEI figure was 100.4, which is above the index’s average for the first six months for each year dating back to 2008. The 2012 figure measured 2.5 points above the first half of 2011. On a related topic, the CEI of those intending to refinance over the next 12 months was 4.3 index points above the first half of 2011, or 5% higher.

The same trend held true for consumers looking to buy or lease a new automobile, as the first half of 2012 showed the average CEI figure was 98.2, which is above the index’s average of the first six months for each year dating back to 2008. The 2012 figure measured 4 index points above the first half of 2011.

According to Experian Marketing Services, as we head into the 2012 holiday season, numerous events and factors could affect consumer confidence, but the latest CEI figures indicate the potential for a strong seasonal performance for retailers. The CEI figure for the week of Sept. 3, 2012 (the most recent single week for which data is available) was 7.4 points higher than it was at the same point last year and higher than it has been heading into the holiday season since 2008.

Further, key consumer groups are even more optimistic. On Sept. 3, the CEI of those adults who made an online purchase in the past year was 2% higher than the national average and 8.1 points higher than the CEI recorded for online shoppers at this time during 2011. This holiday season also could be very good for brands and retailers with big-ticket items to sell, since the CEI among adults planning to make a big-ticket purchase hit 117.9 the week of Sept. 3, 2012, compared with 103.5 the same week in 2011 and 100.5 in 2010. In fact, a CEI above 100 indicates that consumers are more confident than they were during the base line period, which was the first half of 2004, years before the recession began.

Couple those figures with a 6.9 CEI point increase year over year among full-time-employed consumers and these appear to be good indicators heading into the holidays, as the CEI tends to have a seasonal peak around Christmas and the holiday time period.

“The figures are pointing to increased optimism as we head into the 2012 holiday season,” said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research, Experian Marketing Services.

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ShopperTrak: 10 best holiday shopping days

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Chicago — ShopperTrak released a forecast on Tuesday that indicates certain days during the holiday shopping season will be quieter than others. The "10 best days to shop," according to ShopperTrak, are those with the least amount of foot traffic in stores. The weekdays after the busy Thanksgiving weekend top the list.

"This holiday shopping season — November and December — will be busier than in 2011. More shoppers will visit more stores," said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder. "But even though consumer demand will increase, retailers still will offer plenty of specials and discounts. The 10 lightest shopping days, in terms of foot traffic, will present an opportunity for shoppers to secure the best customer service and potentially the best deals."

These best days to shop will be Monday through Thursday following Thanksgiving weekend, with Tuesday, Nov. 27, taking the top place.

During the Black Friday weekend last year, 684 million store visits resulted in $20.8 billion in retail purchases. ShopperTrak predicts this Black Friday (Nov. 23) will again be the holiday season’s top-performing day for both retail foot traffic and sales.

After this burst of spending, most shoppers will temporarily reduce their shopping visits. Those who do return to stores Nov. 26-29, however, will be rewarded, as eager retailers will have more time to devote to individual customers as they inspect the sale merchandise.

"Black Friday is not for the faint of heart," said Martin. "Shoppers must brave the crowds to take advantage of good deals. If they can venture back out after just a few days, however, they’ll have the full attention of store employees and plenty of remaining discounts."

Resting after a shopping spree like Black Friday may feel prudent, but don’t wait too long, advised Martin. The "last-minute" crowds start to shop during the two weeks leading up to Christmas. Rounding out the 10 lightest days are Monday, Dec. 10, and Tuesday, Dec. 11. After that, the check-out lines grow and the parking lots fill. In fact, the following Saturday, Dec. 15, will be the third-busiest shopping day of the holiday season.

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Harvey Norman deploys Lyris for digital marketing

BY Staff Writer

Emeryville, Calif. — Digital marketing solution-provider Lyris said Monday that Australian retailer Harvey Norman has selected and deployed Lyris’ digital marketing platform to increase online conversions and lead generation for the company’s 180 retail stores.

Using Lyris, Harvey Norman will increase the quality of customer engagement across digital channels, and by doing so increase retention and loyalty.

"In retail we are constantly trying to reach customers with relevant, timely and valuable information," said Dan Hosford, digital marketing director at Generic Publications, Harvey Norman’s internal advertising agency.

Harvey Norman needed a reliable and robust digital marketing platform to better understand customer behaviors and use that knowledge to deliver superior customer experiences. Lyris’ intuitive interface and intelligent campaign features empower the retailer to set up automated trigger campaigns and respond to critical conversion opportunities, such as online cart abandonment. Additionally, Harvey Norman can capture customer interactive data from a variety of structured and unstructured sources, including social, email, mobile and hundreds of enterprise applications (a.k.a. "Big Data"), to power digital marketing campaigns that deliver higher revenues.

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