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MOBILITY

Fashion retailer steps up its mobile experience

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Charlotte Russe is taking steps to blend its online and offline experiences.

The young women’s apparel specialty chain recently added a mobile commerce platform from PredictSpring designed to deliver a next-generation app to its customers. The app delivers the three key elements most demanded by Charlotte Russe’s customer: speed, flexibility, and a smooth blend of the online and offline brand experience.

For example, the app allows users to browse and shop Charlotte Russe’s Instagram feed within the app, and access exclusive offers and flash sales — a feature that provides a “VIP experience” to customers. It also gives users insight into real-time in-store inventory, enabling customers to check item availability in any of Charlotte Russe’s 550 stores.

“Our customer demands instant gratification and the ability to shop with the single touch of a button, anywhere and anytime on their mobile de-vice,” said Carrie Welch, senior VP of digital experience, Charlotte Russe.

“Speed is essential to our customer and pivotal to building brand loyal-ty,” she added. “The PredictSpring platform is unrivaled, with our app performing between 20 and 30 times faster than a typical mobile experi-ence. Also, the integration with digital wallet, Apple Pay has proven key to driving increased conversion.”

The Charlotte Russe app is available for download in the Apple App Store and in the Google Play Store. Since its launch in July 2016, the app has had over 1 million downloads.

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Consumers in rebellion against full prices

BY Marianne Wilson

Shoppers are no longer willing to pay full price as deep discounts influence consumer behavior.

That is one of the key findings of a new consumer report by First Insight, which found that widespread discounting by department stores and mass merchants is significantly influencing the expectations of discounts when consumers shop in other product categories.

The study found that while expectations are similar across genders, they vary by age, with baby-boomers expecting deeper discounts than millennials and Gen-Xers. Indeed, 76% of baby-boomers will not pay full price when shopping for home electronics, home appliances, furniture, smartphones and vehicles, according to the first in a series of reports by First Insight. The survey results were announced Monday during Shoptalk in Las Vegas.

“The results of this survey indicate that the rampant discounting that has become the norm in department stores and mass merchants has had a clear impact on consumers and the way they now consider purchases in every aspect of their lives,” said Greg Petro, CEO and founder of First Insight. “In categories ranging from home electronics to automobiles, a vast majority of Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers are less likely to consider purchasing at full price, with Millennials less impacted by discounts overall. This is an incredibly useful finding, and retailers need to be aware of these shifting expectations within their target audiences in order to compete, while still maximizing profits and sales. It’s a delicate balance.”

Additional findings of the survey include:

• Consumers expect discounts every time they shop

Ninety percent of all consumers surveyed acknowledged that discounts in department stores and mass merchants significantly influenced, or somewhat influenced, their expectations for discounts in home electronics. Similar expectations were shared by consumers shopping for home appliances (88%), furniture (86%), smartphones (83%) and vehicles (80%).

• Baby-boomers are least likely to pay full price.

The vast majority of baby-boomers surveyed expect some level of discount in order to consider a purchase. Across every category including vehicles, smartphones, furniture, and home appliances, more than 70% of baby-boomers said they would ‘definitely not’ or ‘probably not’ purchase an item in these categories at full price, with an even higher 79% stating a discount would likely be necessary when purchasing home electronics.

• Discounts have less impact on millennials.

Less than half of millennials stated they would ‘definitely not’ or ‘probably not’ buy vehicles (39%), furniture (40%), home appliances (42%) and home electronics (41%) at full price. Only 35% would be less likely to buy a smartphone at full price.

• Deepest discounts expected in electronics, home appliances and furniture.

Roughly 80% of all respondents reported they would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ buy a product that met their needs at the deepest discounts suggested by the study in categories of home electronics, home appliances and furniture.

However, deep discounts showed a significantly lower impact on purchase decisions surrounding smartphones and vehicles with only 66% and 55% of respondents saying they’d definitely or probably buy these products if deeply discounted, respectively.

Discount rates were selected based on discounts commonly observed within each category, with deep discounts in home electronics, home appliances and furniture at 40%, smartphones at 20% and vehicles at 15%.

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FINANCE

Menswear retailer to focus on marketing, digital in 2017

BY Marianne Wilson

Destination XL Group is slowing store growth to invest in e-commerce and enhanced marketing that includes a return to television advertising.

The retailer of big and tall men’s clothing on Monday reported better-than-expected net income of $1.8 million for the quarter, after reporting a loss of $1.4 million in the year-ago period.

Total sales for the quarter were reported as $122.6 million, down slightly from $124.0 million in the prior-year quarter. Same-store sales fell 2.4%.

For the full year, the company reported a loss of $2.3 million, down from a loss of $8.4 million in the prior year.

Total sales for the year were $450.3 million, up from $442.2 million in the prior year. Same-store sales inched up 0.6%.

“Despite the 2016 retail environment being one of the most challenging in recent memory, we were very pleased to deliver strong growth in EBITDA and free cash flow,” said president and CEO David Levin. “In 2016, we fully funded our DXL store expansion from free cash flow and grew EBITDA nearly 36%.”

Levin noted that six out of 10 “big and tall guys” still do not know who the company is and, therefore, “our top priority in 2017 is customer retention and acquisition.”

“We intend to fuel that objective with a marketing dollar increase of approximately 40% this year, including reinstituting television advertising beginning April 2,” he said. “Our marketing efforts, coupled with our accelerated digital strategies, are now unified and aligned at retaining existing customers, while simultaneously driving new customer acquisition.”

The retailer said it is taking a measured approach to fiscal 2017, and will slow new store growth while investing in marketing and digital. It expects to open 19 DXL retail stores and one DXL outlet store in fiscal 2017, while closing 16 Casual Male XL retail stores and three Casual Male XL outlet stores.

“We believe that investment in our marketing initiatives is necessary to drive brand awareness, store traffic and our digital presence,” Levin said. “As a result, we expect to increase our marketing spend for fiscal 2017 by approximately 40% or $6.8 million to $25.0 million. We plan also to invest in our digital distribution channel in order to transform the way that our consumers engage with us. While we expect this increase in spending to be in the best interest of the company on a long-term basis, this investment will impact our earnings in the short-term.”

Destination XL Group operates stores in the United States and London, England, under five brands: Destination XL, Casual Male XL, Rochester Clothing, ShoesXL and LivingXL.

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