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October sales generally up, but short of estimates; Buckle leads apparel

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Consumer spending slowed in October, sending a note of caution as retailers head into the holiday season. Eleven retailers missed expectations for same-store sales, while three chains beat estimates, according to a preliminary tally by Thomson Reuters. However, while the October results were not as promising as some retailers had hoped, sales for the most part rose and most chains reported results that were only slightly off from analysts’ estimates. Some analysts blamed Wall Street for underestimating how much caution is still out there.

"This is expectations getting ahead of reality," said AlixPartners managing director Joel Bines, in an Associated Press report. "It’s still a solid performance.”

October is the third-smallest month for sales.

Costco, Macy’s, Saks and Target are among the companies that reported results that fell slightly below Wall Street analysts’ expectations.

Limited Brands reported a 6% rise in same-store sales, just off the 6.2% expected, and raised its third-quarter earnings outlook. Victoria’s Secret stores led the growth, with a 9% jump in same-stores sales. Bath & Body Works reported a 6% rise.

On the apparel side, The Buckle reported an 8.7% rise in comparable-store sales, better than the 6.3% that was projected. American Eagle Outfitters, which no longer reports monthly sales, raised the low end of its third-quarter profit guidance, and said third-quarter revenue rose 11%, with a 5% rise in same-store sales. Both were better than analysts had expected.

Other apparel same-store sales results for October included:

  • Zumiez reported a 3.3% increase, ahead of analysts’ expectations for 2.8%.
  • Wet Seal’s same-store sales fell 9.7%, well-below expectations, and the company lowered its quarterly profit outlook.
  • Gap Inc.’s sales fell 6%, worse than expected. By division, sales were down 5% at namesake stores, 9% at Old Navy and 7% internationally. Sales were up 1% at Banana Republic.
  • Cato Corp.’s sales fell 3%.
  • Hot Topic reported a 1.6% decrease, citing disappointing sales for its Halloween-related merchandise.

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Walmart answers the ‘Call of Duty’ with early game preview

BY CSA STAFF

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Customers who can’t wait to get their hands on the latest "Call of Duty" video game are in for some good news courtesy of Walmart. The retailer announced that on Nov. 7 in more than 2,700 stores customers can play "Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3." The event begins at 8 p.m. (local time) and will include tournaments and the chance to win double experience points withevery purchase of specially-marked 20-packs of Mountain Dew, exclusively at Walmart.

"Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, " is predicted to be one of the top-selling video games for Christmas, officially goes on sale at 12 a.m. Nov. 8, Walmart said.

"Walmart is the destination for all gamers this holiday season," said Seong Ohm, SVP entertainment, Walmart U.S. "When it comes to entertainment, Walmart offers unbelievable prices on the widest assortment of gaming devices from brand name consoles to new releases."

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’Tis the Season to be Social

BY CSA STAFF

By Jay Samit, [email protected]

Back when print had more impact, big-box retailers like Walmart and Target maximized foot traffic on Black Friday by flooding Thanksgiving Day newspapers with door-buster deals. But with the rapid decline in newspaper circulation, and the proliferation of Americans using Facebook and Twitter, retailers need to add social media marketing to their retail strategy. Now that the holidays are right around the corner, here are six social media tips to guarantee that, like the song says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” – at least from a revenue-generating point of view.

1. Build your Facebook fan base now
According to Pew Research, more than half of all U.S. adults use social media. In 2011, Facebook jumped to the No. 1 spot online of time spent online, with over 1 trillion page views a month. As in real estate, the three keys for success in retail are location, location, location – so go where your customers are.

There are many successful techniques for building “likes” on your Facebook page, ranging from viral postings to paid engagement ads, but no matter which strategy you employ, it takes time to build an engaged and active community. Start now so that you’ll have a sizeable audience come the holidays. To give it a holiday spin, allow me to sing this piece of advice, with apologies to Nat King Cole: “So I’m offering this simple phrase, to reach kids from one to 92, although it’s been said many times, many ways, have Facebook users connect to you.”

2. Tweet your door-buster deals
To reference “The Christmas Song” again: Everyone knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright – but really, it’s deep discounts that drive shoppers to camp outside your doors overnight. In holiday seasons past, you’ve no doubt worked hard with suppliers to offer the best door-buster promotions ever, only to have your plans leaked early because of newspaper printing deadlines (Target and Kohl’s have even gone to court over these leaks). Why not use Twitter to get out the word yourself, and encourage your best customers to spread the message? As with Facebook, build your Twitter following now, so that you have an audience before Jack Frost comes nipping at your toes.

3. There’s nothing more social than gifting
Whether it’s two turtle doves or five golden rings, the social act of gift-giving is at the heart of the holidays, so you should translate this idea into the online world. Make wish lists social so that they can be posted and shared within social environments. Macy’s did a very simple but effective campaign last year by asking consumers, “What is at the top of your wish list this holiday season?” and provided the opportunity to use Facebook Connect to share wish lists. The result: 65% of consumers who engaged with the campaign made a list and then shared it with their friends.

4. Don’t miss out on the early season social media advertising upfronts
In the movie in “Jingle All the Way,” Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad had to overpay and fight for the last toy on the shelf. The same thing will happen to retailers who fail to plan ahead: with all the growth in social media, you can expect scarcity when it comes to highly engaging advertising inventory. Interactive social media ads – such as engagements on social games such as Zynga’s Farmville or Cityville – aren’t as plentiful as display and banner ads. Major retailers such as Best Buy and toymakers like VTech have already secured their placements with social media upfronts for the holidays. To make cash registers jingle, plan ahead.

5. Check out (and reward) those that check in
Even when the weather outside is frightful, your best customers continue to check-in and be delightful – when it’s stormy outside, everyone’s inside and browsing online. You should value and reward your loyal social media followers. Special discounts, free wrapping and pre-sale hours are all easy and effective ways to reward customers who’ve been using Foursquare and Gowalla all year long to publically display their affection for your business.

6. Capture hearts through cause marketing
An activity not just limited to the holiday season, more than 30 million Americans per month use social media to donate time and money to charities. In fact, the number one non-gaming app on Facebook is Causes, and it offers many ways for brands to engage with their audience while empowering 11,000 non-profits to make the world a better place. If your cause marketing programs are sitting by the wayside while you focus on product advertising, build a social media presence for your charity campaigns and let everyone get into the holiday spirit.

Jay Samit is a digital industry veteran with 25 years of senior management experience at Sony, EMI, and Universal Studios. He’s currently CEO of SocialVibe, a digital advertising company. He can be reached at [email protected].

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