Poll: Retailers expect shoppers earlier this year
North Plainfield, N.J. — Levin Management’s annual pre-holiday retail sentiment survey has found that retailers expect consumers to begin their holiday shopping sooner this year. Specifically, Levin said that 43.3% of responding retailers believe that holiday sales will peak prior to and during the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend sales period.
Only 13.5% believe that sales will peak later — during the weekend before Christmas, a significant drop from last year’s 29.2%.
Levin conducted the survey during October, polling store managers within its 90-property, 12.5-million-sq.-ft. shopping center portfolio on this and other topics related to the upcoming holiday selling season, ecommerce, year-to-date sales and more.
The survey uncovered fears among retailers that the recent government shutdown would affect holiday spending. Nevertheless, more than three quarters of the respondents (77.5%) indicated that they plan to bring in as much as or more inventory than last year. A larger 85.7% of clothing, shoe and accessories retailers indicated that they plan to bring in as much ore more inventory than last season.
Levin noted that this trend lines up with the National Retail Federation’s forecast for a 3.9% sales increase during November and December compared with last year. This exceeds the 3.3% 10-year average holiday sales growth as well as 2012’s 3.5% holiday sales growth.
All Data Leads to the Customer
Workforce management data, such as time and attendance and payroll, is generally seen as information pertaining to the back end of retail operations. Managing employees is an activity that generally does not involve front-end customer interaction and data generated from this activity is usually siloed from the data retailers use to help guide their customer-facing activities.
However, while this viewpoint may be understandable, it is also short-sighted. As pointed out by numerous industry speakers at the recent KronosWorks 2013 conference in Orlando, Fla., retailers are in the business of serving customers. Therefore, every retail activity, and by extension data generated by every retail activity, is relevant to the customer experience. If in the ancient world of travel all roads led to Rome, in the modern world of retail all data leads to the customer.
Cutting Hours May Not Boost Profits
Paying store associates is a huge drain on most retailers’ profits. Therefore, retailers tend to track associate hours very closely and reflexively cut them as soon as payroll exceeds weekly or monthly forecasts. However, as David Schaub, manager of retail operations at Puma North America, explained in a KronosWorks session, reducing the number of associates on the floor to meet a short-term payroll goal may lead to the loss of sales and even customers due to shoppers who cannot receive the in-store assistance they need.
That is why Puma includes workforce data in its broader operational analysis of things like customer service levels and sales trends, and you should, too.
Know Who’s Available When
Retailers have gotten better about timing their promotions. Since the late ‘90s, they have increasingly coordinated promotions with relevant third parties like suppliers and distributors, helping to ensure that adequate stock levels are available and internal marketing efforts don’t conflict with brand-led promotions.
But internally, there is generally little coordination between marketers and workforce management personnel to ensure that stores and distribution centers will have enough workers to handle a promotional event. Coordinating promotions with suppliers to get the right number of goods to the store does little good if there aren’t enough associates to keep the shelves stocked.
In addition, retail marketers can examine data on employee scheduling in advance of promotions, so that for example if a local or ethnic holiday affects the availability of a large number of employees in a specific region, the timing of the promotion can be altered there.
The More Metadata, the Merrier
With the advent of Hadoop and other analytical platforms capable of rapidly sorting through reams of Big Data and uncovering otherwise hidden insights, retailers have taken an increasing interest in collecting and studying as much metadata as possible to improve their customer experience. The inclusion of workforce management data nicely spices up the retail metadata stew.
Maybe in-store sales improve when a certain percentage of associates have taken a paid vacation within a certain period of time. Perhaps there is a perfect mix of veteran and new employees that maximizes the efficiency of store operations. Whatever the case may be, the more data that comprises the “meta” in your metadata, the deeper the resulting analytical insight will be. All data leads to the customer, but first you have to find and then follow it.
Acosta Mosaic Group unveils purchase design agency for retailers
Acosta Mosaic Group, the marketing division of Acosta Sales and Marketing, has launched Shopper Solutions, a newly formed agency which combines AMG’s retailer-facing marketing services in the U.S. and Canada and is designed to deliver a streamlined offering to clients across North America.
Touted by the firm as North America’s only purchase design agency for retailers, Shopper Solutions will allow North American retailers to engage their shoppers online and in-store through “captivating shopper experiences.”
“The retail landscape is incredibly promising, but more complex than ever before. The vision for Shopper Solutions is to help retailers create purchase influence through integrated customer experiences across their ecosystems,” says Anne Howe, SVP, Shopper Solutions.
The agency’s key offering of purchase design connects customer experience and behavior change to sales growth, according to the firm. Shopper Solutions distills clients’ business challenges through immersion in consumer, customer and retailer behaviors at the channel, category and brand levels — that is, the agency’s experts observe in- and out-of-store behaviors to show clients what the shopper truly sees and does, and to simplify complex issues into actionable insights and strategies.
“I am very excited about this growth strategy and the increased strength Shopper Solutions will bring to the broader AMG team, as well as the subsequent value we will be able to offer clients across North America,” says Chad Grenier, EVP, North America Retail Marketing Services, AMG. “This is a win-win for Acosta Sales and Marketing, AMG and all of our respective clients, whether brands or retailers.”
Howe will lead The U.S. Shopper Solutions team while VP Steve Noble will continue leading the Canadian operation. Both teams will operate under the AMG services umbrella and will report to Grenier.