OPERATIONS

Imports expected to rise as West Coast Port issues drag on

BY Marianne Wilson

Washington, D.C. — Year-over-year import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to continue to rise during most of the first half of 2015 despite significant congestion still impacting West Coast ports, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Now that a federal mediator is on the scene, we hope the mediator will be able to help the parties quickly reach a new contract so we can begin to work on solutions to the ongoing congestion issues,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “The urgent need to end the uncertainty we’ve seen for half a year now isn’t over just because the holiday season has ended. Retailers are already starting to bring in products for the spring season, and want both labor and management to work together to bring these issues to an end.”



The contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired on July 1. The lack of a contract and other operational issues led to crisis-level congestion at the ports, and NRF asked President Obama to engage with the parties. A federal mediator arrived in San Francisco on Tuesday and is currently working with labor and management on the contract negotiations.


Ports covered by Global Port Tracker handled 1.39 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in November, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was down 10.7% from October as holiday merchandise wound down but up 3.5% from November 2013. December was estimated at 1.35 million TEU, up 2.7% from the year before. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.



The numbers brought 2014 to a preliminary total of 17.2 million TEU, an increase of 6% over 2013’s 16.2 million. Imports in 2012 totaled 15.8 million. January is forecast at 1.39 million TEU, up 1.1% from January 2014, February at 1.3 million TEU, up 4.8% from last year; March also at 1.3 million TEU, down 0.5%; April at 1.43 million TEU, the same as last year; and May at 1.49 million TEU, up 0.6%.


“2014 started out with a whimper as winter weather hammered the country but it appears to have ended with a bang,” Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett said. “Import volumes on the West Coast, despite all the problems there, were the highest since 2009. A similar picture exists on the East Coast, which had even healthier results.”



Global Port Tracker, which is produced for NRF by the consulting firm Hackett Associates, covers the U.S. ports of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, Savannah, Port Everglades and Miami on the East Coast, and Houston on the Gulf Coast.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Bloomingdale’s to open NBA in-store pop-ups

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Bloomingdale’s is celebrating the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) 64th NBA All-Star Game in a big way with 16 basketball-inspired in-store pop-up shops filled with NBA team and All-Star merchandise.

Debuting in early January, the pop-up shops at select Bloomingdale’s locations, and on Bloomingdales.com/nba, will feature retro-era jerseys, vintage graphic tees and luxe accessories that celebrate the love of basketball and style. Featured brands include Mitchell & Ness, Sportiqe, Junk Food, Been Trill, Mark McNairy, and Stance.

"Bloomingdale’s is thrilled to infuse the excitement of the NBA All-Star Game in-stores and online through a variety of ways,” said Frank Berman, Bloomingdale's executive VP of marketing. “We saw the opportunity to tap into the basketball community’s love for fashion with our own through close collaborations, merchandise, visual displays, and special events, to celebrate this iconic event with fans and shoppers while supporting Mentoring USA.”

The Bloomies-NBA partnership will also feature a charity auction — offering tickets to events surrounding the All-Star game, tickets to the game itself, NBA merchandise and a Bloomingdale's shopping spree. All proceeds will benefit Mentoring USA, which provides supportive relationships for youths aged seven to 21.

The 2015 NBA All-Star Game will take place at Madison Square Garden in NYC on Feb. 15.

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Insights

Five Pillars of Excellence for Retailers in 2015

BY Joe Jackman

From Valentine’s Day to Christmas, the year is filled with big moments for retailers – but a retailer’s strategy should be much more than a numbers game during these times. Rather, these moments present an opportunity to build momentum for the entire year with a 360-degree brand strategy that gives shoppers an unforgettable experience that will keep them coming back.

To maximize the potential benefits of big retail moments throughout 2015, keep these five pillars in mind:

1.Use big retail moments to complement your brand. If you are a mass or even affordable luxury retailer, consider yourself obligated to play the game during key retail moments throughout the year. Not participating in these events puts your brand at a competitive disadvantage in terms of sales and awareness. But here’s the catch: your approach to these major retail moments needs to be part of an overall, year-long pricing and promotion strategy that complements your brand. If there’s a disconnect in this strategy, you won’t capture repeat business. You can maintain that brand integrity if your promotions are a big value, as well as something hugely differentiating – ideally an offer or experience that only your brand would or could make.

2. Embrace your employees. Your employees are your brand ambassadors. During critical retail moments, they must embrace that role more than ever. Retail managers lead the charge through attitude and behavior, and set the tone and expectations for peak retail seasons. Their job is to rally the troops and incent the right behavior.

Bring employees in on sales deals, pay a premium for working high-volume days, create friendly competitions or come up with something entirely new to foster the retail spirit. Keep in mind, though, that most employees value recognition above all else. You don’t have to upend your economics to get your team focused on service excellence. After all, it's pressure that creates diamonds.

3. Be the first. The first store where customers shop on big retail days is often where they spend the most money. Be that first stop. Start by creating an amazingly differentiated offer or experience. You want shoppers to see your business as “the only one to do X.” Then, spread the word. Double down on search engine optimization and amplify your blow-away offering through social and earned media.

Finally, make good on that offer or experience. Unnecessary out of stocks, disorganization or inadequate staffing will cancel out the unique factor, create negative word of mouth and squash repeat business. Shoppers are more apt to be loyal to reliable brands that exceed their expectations and make brand interaction simple and fast, particularly during hectic shopping periods.

4. Use big retail moments as a springboard for your strategy. Don’t view big retail moments just as a way to make earnings numbers. Look at these days as an opportunity to meet new customers – customers you want back in your store many times after the busy period ends. Focus on keeping new customers and developing your brand with them for the long-term through loyalty programs, special offers and unique experiences.

View the weeks leading up to big retail days as an opportunity to build anticipation with special offers and promotions in advance of the big day. If your strategy is aligned with your overall strategy and core values, busy shopping seasons can also be a chance to capture valuable customer data and revitalize your brand and recommit to old and new customers as well as your mission.

5. View online sales as the second of two punches. An online sales strategy for big retail days shouldn’t be seen as a threat to the bricks and mortar component of your business. Rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity to create an omnichannel retail experience for your customers.

Keep in mind that not all shoppers get a thrill out of fighting the crowds, and would instead prefer to engage with your brand through other touch points. Promotions should be designed as part of a cohesive program that accounts for both online and offline customer behavior and that is phased-in over a period of time before and after a big sale day.

Brands that take a thoughtful and strategic approach to key retail moments throughout the year will not only make a strong showing, they will engage old customers, win new customers, build brand equity, differentiate from the competition and set themselves up for success year round.

Joe Jackman is CEO of Jackman Reinvents, a company that helps businesses reposition themselves through management consulting, research and insights, brand strategy and marketing, 360° customer experience, environmental design and activation. The Jackman Reinvents team has worked with companies in a wide variety of industries, including Walgreens, Duane Reade, David’s Bridal, Dave & Buster’s, Rexall, and Hertz among others. He can be reached at [email protected].

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