Politics and the Holidays
With the political conventions coming to an end, it’s clear now that election season is in full swing. And, while I don’t pretend to know what the long-term implications of an Obama re-election or a Romney win would mean for our economy or our country, I do think that what happens on Nov. 6 will almost certainly have an impact on our industry — particularly, shopper sentiment and ultimately holiday sales.
Just to be clear, before I continue with my thoughts on the subject, I’m not endorsing any one candidate over another. I’m simply making a prediction about how the election will likely affect consumer confidence, which will, in turn, shape the way retailers plan for the holidays.
Based on what I know about consumers and what triggers their confidence levels, I believe that the election of someone new (particularly someone who is perceived by many as having a strong business background and a willingness to take some new and concrete steps to boost the economy) has the potential to lead to a modest but measurable bump in consumer confidence — ultimately, boosting spending for the last month of the holiday shopping season. Even though the holiday shopping season will be half over by the time we know the election results, the outcome will likely have an impact on the intensity of a reaction at the register.
I’m certainly not saying that an increase in consumer confidence/spending would be based on anything substantive. We all know that perception is reality when it comes to such things. And, let’s face it, no matter what kind of election results we see, the job market isn’t going to change overnight, and the housing market isn’t going to magically take off. But, human nature is fairly predictable. And with polls showing that there is a good deal of economic malaise/concern regarding a continuation of an economy that is essentially treading water, the notion that a change in leadership might translate into higher consumer confidence doesn’t seem too far-fetched to me.
So what should retailers be thinking about? They need to absolutely be thinking about the political ramifications on their bottom lines, and how they might respond depending on who wins the election. I’m guessing that retailers will gauge the post-election mood, assess the early returns from the first part of the holiday shopping season and react accordingly. Where political fallout is likely to have the biggest impact is with regard to discounts: an Obama win would likely lead to deeper discounts in an attempt to counteract a potential dip in confidence and spur holiday spending; while retailers might respond to a Romney victory by limiting discounts in the expectation that higher consumer confidence will lead to higher sales volumes, making those discounts unnecessary. Again, I think because of the length of the shopping season these days, we won’t necessarily see a big change in spending patterns (early shoppers will still shop early). But, if there is a spike, it will be in the second half of November and on through December.
Another area where the election will likely impact our industry is in 2013-2014 expansion plans. Again, without the support of consumer confidence and the expectation that the economy will not just bump along as it has, but actually get a boost, I think we could see some retailers pulling back their plans for opening more stores. The holidays are always a good indicator for the year ahead.
Whether you lean left, right or somewhere in between, there’s no denying this is an important election for our industry.
What do you think? Please make a public comment below or feel free to e-mail me privately at [email protected].
Click here for past columns by Jeff Green.
Nicole Richie collection debuts at Macy’s
NEW YORK — Macy’s on Sept. 12 will debut a new fashion line from Nicole Richie. The Nicole Richie for Impulse collection will include 1960s and 1970s influenced silhouettes, prints and fabrications and be sold at approximately 100 Macy’s stores and on Macys.com/impulse.For the first time, Macy’s Facebook fans will be the very first to shop the collection at facebook.com/macys before it hits stores Wednesday.
“Macy’s is an iconic American retailer and I have been thrilled by the opportunity to partner with them on this limited collection,” said Richie. “Each item is a nod to the modern American woman whose fashion is always evolving. By mixing prints and fabrics and playing with proportions, my capsule allows the Macy’s ‘Impulse’ customer to experiment with her personal style in an effortless and affordable way.”
Ranging in price from $39 to $129, “Nicole Richie for Impulse” offers an eclectic mix of prints, colors and silhouettes that speak to the fashion-forward customer who is looking for pieces that transition easily from day to night.
Casual Male outsources store set-up; taps Great American Group to help with DXL store expansion
Woodland Hills, Calif. — Casual Male Retail Group is taking a new approach with merchandising and store set-ups for the nationwide roll-out of its DestinationXL (DXL) format, which brings together its value, mid-range and luxury men’s apparel under one roof. The chain has outsourced the store set-up function to Great American Group, Woodland Hills, Calif.
"We opened four stores using our own visual team and district managers, flying large groups of associates in to help set-up the DXL store layout each time," said Brian Doherty, director of field support, Casual Male. "Although there’s a cost associated with paying for flights and hotels for a four-to-five night stay, we realized that the real cost was pulling these people away from their day-to-day responsibilities and the>effect it had on each district’s overall sales performance."
After a test, Casual Male decided to go with Great America Group’s store opening program.
"We were impressed with the level of expertise and precision Great American Group demonstrated in executing the DXL store opening plan, which led us to use their team for all DXL openings," Doherty said.
Great American Group is on track to help Casual Male set up the majority of the 50 DXL stores scheduled to open throughout the U.S. by the end of the year.
In addition to store layout and merchandising support services, Great American Group helped Casual Male "fold in" existing inventory from the smaller, former Casual Male locations into the larger DXL stores, which range in size from 7,000 sq. ft. to 10,000 sq. ft.
Casual Male plans to continue using Great American Group’s store opening program during the "rapid expansion" of its new DXL store format, according to Doherty.
"Our Store Opening Program provides clients with a one-stop shop for their global expansion needs," said Mike Wyse, Great American Group VP president. "Our goal is to simplify the store opening process.