TECHNOLOGY

Graduation spending to hit record high

BY Marianne Wilson

Some good news for retailers: Consumers plan to spend more than ever on graduation gifts this year as they stuff greeting cards with gift cards and cash.

That’s according to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. With more consumers buying for graduates this year – 36% compared with 34% in 2016 – total spending is expected to reach $5.6 billion. That’s the highest number in the survey’s 11-year history, topping last year’s previous record of $5.4 billion.

Cash will once again be the most popular gift, given by 53% of those surveyed as they seek to help students with the costly transition from high school to college or college to the “real world.” However, cash gifting is at a survey low in 2017, dropping about 10% from highs recorded in 2007 and 2009. Greeting cards follow at 41%, gift cards at 33%, apparel at 16% and electronics at 11%.

“This graduation season we are seeing more young millennials giving gifts to their peers,” Prosper principal analyst Pam Goodfellow said, noting that 48% plan to do so, up from 42% last year. “While greeting cards are most likely to be exchanged among 18-24-year-old, gift cards, cash, and apparel are other popular options. In fact, this group is nearly twice as likely to gift clothing than the overall average.”

While ages 18-24 are the most likely to give a gift to graduates (at 48%), they maintain the smallest budgets at $78.42. The biggest spending is likely to come among parent-age 45-54-year-olds at $119.84 as well as those in the grandparent bracket of 65+, who plan to spend an average $112.34.

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TECHNOLOGY

Report: Amazon exploring entering pharmacy market

BY Michael Johnsen

Amazon may have its sights set on a new, multi-billion dollar market.

The online giant may be on the cusp of entering the pharmaceutical dispensing business, according to a report by CNBC. The company reportedly has hired a general manager whose role is said to be helping the online retailer explore how to hang a pharmacy shingle.

"I think Amazon would introduce a lot of transparency to what drugs really cost," Stephen Buck, co-founder of GoodRx, told CNBC. The report suggested Amazon.com could grab as much as $50 billion in prescription sales.

CNBC noted that in Japan, Amazon has added drug and cosmetics delivery to its Prime Now options, and its Japanese site now boasts a pharmaceuticals category page. It noted that Amazon’s playbook typically includes testing new offerings outside the U.S.

Amazon had originally backed Drugstore.com in that company's bid to become an online retail pharmacy, the report said. At a time when brick-and-mortar drug store retailers were first wrestling with online offerings, Drugstore.com and Rite Aid entered a partnership enabling Drugstore.com patients to pick up their prescriptions at a Rite Aid.

Walgreens acquired Drugstore.com in 2011 and five years later the business as Walgreens focused on its Walgreens.com URL.

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TECHNOLOGY

Online retailer brings baby products cross-border

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

As demand for American baby products increases among Chinese shoppers, Babyhaven not only saw an opportunity, it ran with it.

Babyhaven is an online retailer of baby and children’s merchandise in the United States. Like other brands however, the company is feeling pressure from competitors like Amazon, Walmart, and other traditional category retailers, such as Babies “R” Us, that can not only compete on price, but can offer speedier delivery windows.

“It is getting increasingly difficult to compete on price, as well as service,” said Babyhaven's CEO Jason Becker. “To compete on service, you need to operate more warehouses in order to get product to customers faster.”

However, Babyhaven saw an opportunity in an unlikely place — China. As the world’s largest e-commerce market, China represents a lucrative opportunity for U.S. and foreign retailers seeking new growth overseas. In fact, Chinese cross-border trading volume reached $ 920 billion (USD) in 2016, up 26% from 2015, according to data from iiMedia.

Further, Chinese consumers are demanding safe, high quality baby products — merchandise that is hard to come by in China. In fact, demand is so high that mom and baby products are the second most popular category for e-commerce sales in China, behind only cosmetics and personal care, according to iResearch.

It was this demand that pushed Babyhaven to establish a Chinese cross-border e-commerce site. By adopting a fully-managed platform from e-commerce provider Azoya International, the online retailer is creating a direct market presence in China that can be accessed online or through mobile devices.

Azoya helped Babyhaven develop a website that features localized content, and caters to the shopping behavior and tastes of Chinese customers. Azoya is also providing localized logistics solutions and operational services to ensure Babyhaven delivers a smooth customer experience overseas.

Babyhaven has big hopes for the site, which went live on May 11. “We hope that by the end of 2018, we will constantly see between 300 and 500 sales day on the Chinese site,” Becker said, adding that domestically, it processes upward of 6,000 orders a day.

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