OPERATIONS

Midwestern U.S. has highest rate of holiday returns

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Irvine, Calif. — Statistics released by The Retail Equation, gathered during the seven days after Christmas, revealed that the Midwest states had the highest rate of returns, when comparing total dollars purchased to total dollars returned and exchanged.

Ohio led the pack with a rate of returns of 25.6%; Illinois had the second highest with 24.8%. The state with the least rate of returns was Nevada with 16%. The Retail Equation’s data also indicated that the highest rate of returns nationwide occurred at 12:42 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Dec. 26. And, while Dec 26 had the highest total returns, almost 3x the typical number of returns during the holiday season, there were 4 other days that more than doubled the normal return volumes.

“Return rates in the Midwest were higher than the rest of the country this past holiday season, which we attribute to the continued sluggish economy in the region,” said David Speights, chief statistician at The Retail Equation. “However, if managed properly, holiday returns offer a source of good consumer traffic for retailers’ end-of-year sales objectives.”

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News

Lower demand for firearms and ammo at Big 5 Sporting Goods

BY CSA STAFF

Big 5 Sporting Goods announced that their fourth-quarter sales results were affected by a lower demand year-over-year for firearms and ammunition products as well as a highly promotional retail holiday environment.

The company reported net sales of $248 million, an increase of 1.8% from $243.6 million for the prior-year quarter. Same-store sales decreased 0.5% for the quarter versus the prior year period.

The company now expects to realize earnings per diluted share in the range of $0.21 to $0.23. This guidance reflects anticipated expenses associated with the development of the company’s new e-commerce platform of approximately $0.01 per diluted share.

"Our sales results for the fourth quarter reflect the anticipated impact of cycling against the surge of firearm and ammunition sales last year, as well as the unfortunate lack of winter weather across our western markets," said chairman, president and CEO Steven G. Miller. "For the quarter, same store sales in our apparel category increased in the low double-digit range, footwear sales were slightly positive and hardgoods sales decreased in the mid-single-digit range, primarily due to lower demand year-over-year for firearms and ammunition products. Given the challenges that we faced during the quarter and the highly promotional retail holiday environment, we feel pleased that we appear positioned to deliver another quarter of earnings growth through improved product margins and controlled operating expenses."

Big 5 is a leading sporting goods retailer in the western United States, operating 429 stores in 12 states under the "Big 5 Sporting Goods" name.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

IBM study: Consumers willing to share personal info – for a price

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — A new IBM study of more than 30,000 global consumers found that consumers are willing to share their personal information with retailers, particularly if they get good value in exchange.

According to the findings, the percentage of consumers willing to share their current location via GPS with retailers nearly doubled year-over-year to 36%. Thirty-eight percent of consumers would provide their mobile number for the purpose of receiving text messages and 32% would share their social handles with retailers.

"Today’s consumer has been conditioned by multiple industries — from healthcare to travel — to expect personalized interactions across different channels," said Jill Puleri, IBM Retail Global Industry Leader. "IBM’s study shows consumers are willing to share details about themselves, particularly if they receive a personalized experience in return.”

Consumers have high online expectations across the board. IBM’s study found that the five most important omnichannel capabilities to consumers are, in order:

• Price consistency across shopping channels;
• Ability to ship items that are out of stock in the store directly to their home;
• Option o track the status of an order;
• Consistent product assortment across channels; and
• Ability to return online purchases in the store.

The IBM study found that consumers fall into four distinct groups differentiated by their interest in and use of social, location and mobile technologies while shopping. Nineteen percent of consumers surveyed lag behind the majority of the population when it came to using technology to shop. Another 40% of shoppers use social, location and mobile technologies for information gathering, but are not likely to use them to purchase products. Twenty-nine percent use social, location and mobile much more extensively, for everything from researching products to ordering goods. Twelve percent of consumers surveyed are classified as "Trailblazers," those who use these technologies across channels and base their choice of retailer on whether they make that possible.

The survey found that consumers are increasingly shopping online. In 2013, 84% of shoppers surveyed by IBM chose the store to make their last non-grocery purchase. This year, that figure dropped to 72%. Surprisingly, showrooming is not behind this online growth. While more respondents showroomed this year (8% versus 6% last year), only about 30% of all online purchases actually resulted from showrooming — a drop from nearly 50% last year. Seventy percent of online purchases were made by shoppers that went directly to the web.

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