FINANCE

Retail imports up 6.5% in October

BY Marianne Wilson

Washington, D.C. — Import volume at the nation’s major retail container ports grew 6.5% in October over the same month last year despite the government shutdown, and year-over-year increases are expected to continue for the remainder of the year, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

“Retailers place their orders for merchandise months ahead of time, so cargo arriving at the ports in October and for most of the rest of the year was ordered long before anybody ever heard of a shutdown,” VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “The question at this point isn’t how much merchandise arrived but how much consumers bought, and how they are going to react as economic talks continue in Washington. Lawmakers need to take steps that build confidence, not continue the uncertainty.”

While some government workers involved with clearing cargo were furloughed during the 16-day shutdown, U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors remained on the job and no major disruptions of cargo handling were reported. The cargo numbers come as NRF is predicting that this year’s holiday sales will grow 3.9% over last year to a total of $602.1 billion.

Cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with sales because they count only the number of cargo containers, not the value of the merchandise inside them. August, September and October are the months when most of the holiday season’s merchandise is brought into the country. The 4.35 million cargo containers handled during those months combined represent a 4.3% increase over last year and account for 26.8% of all retail imports for the entire year.



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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Toys ‘R’ Us unveils enhanced websites with new social shopping feature

BY Marianne Wilson

Wayne, N.J. — Toys “R” Us unveiled redesigned and updated e-commerce sites for Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com, with a fresh design and layout, revamped navigation and other new features. In addition, the sites have introduced social shopping – allowing customers to organize their most-wanted items in shareable toy and baby boards, while also viewing the most popular and trending products on the sites.

“Our e-commerce websites receive more than 450 million visits annually, and we are proud to introduce a new look and enhanced functionalities to improve the shopping experience for our customers,” said Fred Argir, senior VP, chief digital officer, Toys “R” Us. “Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com are the go-to destinations for a broad assortment of toys and juvenile products, and we have implemented helpful, interactive features, such as a new social shopping component that provides customers with insight into the most popular and trending products, plus improved navigation capabilities, that will make it easier to find the right gift for a child or expectant parent.”

New and enhanced features on Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com include:

  • Toy and baby boards: Shoppers can now organize their most-wanted items in toy and baby “boards,” one of the newest advancements in social shopping. This feature allows shoppers to gather an assortment of products into a themed “board,” which can then be shared with family and friends via Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Users can also invite their friends to create boards.
  • Clean and simple homepage and site navigation: Upon their first visit to the revamped sites, customers will notice that the homepage features cleaner design and layout, with a larger space for current featured products and promotions. In addition, shoppers can move seamlessly between Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com with the brands presented in tabs at the top left of the page.
  • Bigger, brighter images on product detail pages.
  • Live chat, which connects customers directly with an “R”Us representative while shopping online.

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FINANCE

Food Lion announces upgrades in 169 stores

BY Staff Writer

Salisbury, N.C. — Food Lion announced that it has made significant investments in 169 stores in North Carolina and South Carolina and created 500 new jobs. Key markets include Greenville, N.C., Wilmington, N.C., Columbia, S.C., Charleston, S.C., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

To celebrate the launch, Food Lion is holding grand re-opening festivities at the 169 stores, including providing the first 50 customers at each location with a bag of free groceries Nov. 13 through Nov. 16.

"With today’s launch, nearly all Food Lion stores have received these store investments," said Greg Finchum, senior VP of retail operations for Food Lion.

Food Lion’s key investments offer customers lower prices on 6,000 items throughout the store and access to quality store brand products at new lower prices, including the company’s private label products. To further enhance customer savings, Food Lion has added MVP Savings Centers in each of its stores. Customers can scan their MVP Card to receive personalized offers for additional savings on national and private brand products in-store during their shopping trip.

The company also improved its produce as part of its "Fresh From the Field" initiative.

The investments are based on customer feedback and will continue to position the company for future success.

Food Lion also plans to donate $2,000 to local food banks, which will help each agency provide up to 10,000 meals to its constituents.

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