Retail sales up in April

BY Marianne Wilson

Retail sales increased in April, led by online, consumer electronics stores and home improvement outlets.

Retail sales in April increased 0.3% seasonally adjusted over March and 3% unadjusted year-over-year, the National Retail Federation said on Friday. The number, which exclude automobiles, gasoline stations and restaurants, was below expectations.

When looking at business lines, performance in April was driven by online and other non-store retailers, electronics stores, and building materials and supplies. On a three-month moving average, retail sales have grown 2.6% year-over-year, according to the NRF.

“While the interplay between consumer confidence and spending is difficult to gauge, retail sales trends and recent consumer sentiment readings are consistent with a pickup in the pace of the economy in the coming months,” NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “The housing recovery has been an important variable in consumers’ willingness to spend. Low retail price inflation has continued, drawing in shoppers but providing heartburn to the bottom line for many retailers.”

In a separate report on Friday, the Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index rose 0.2% after dropping 0.3% in March. The rise in prices suggested that March's drop, which was the first in 13 months, was an aberration, according to Reuters.

Specific findings of the NRF report include:

• Online and other non-store sales increased 1.4% seasonally adjusted over March and increased 9.4% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Sales at clothing and accessories stores decreased 0.5% seasonally adjusted from March but increased 1.7% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Sales at general merchandise stores decreased 0.5% seasonally adjusted over March but increased 0.8% year-over-year.

• Electronics and appliances stores’ sales increased 1.3% seasonally adjusted over March but decreased 0.1% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Furniture and home furnishings stores’ sales decreased 0.5% seasonally adjusted from March but increased 0.9% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Sales at building materials and supplies stores increased 1.2% seasonally adjusted from March and increased 5.7 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

• Sporting goods stores’ sales increased 0.6% seasonally adjusted from March but decreased 3.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

• Sales at health and personal care stores increased 0.8% seasonally adjusted over March but decreased 0.6% unadjusted year-over-year.


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Supermarket Trends: Technology, food safety and sustainability are top of mind

BY Ed McKiernan

The supermarket industry is constantly changing. Consumer food choices and how they shop, frequent regulation modifications and new technologies to integrate are just a few things we gathered from recent customer input concerning the most pressing issues for the industry. As 2017 rolls along, there are four emerging trends we see that grocery marketers should be aware of for the remainder of the year.

1. Impact of the digitally engaged food shopper on retail facilities

Convenience continues to be a focus for store format changes. Digitally engaged food shoppers are continually seeking fresh items, quick access and new experiences. To keep up with this demand, retailers are competing with new shopping types and competition — online, click and collect and the latest innovations in store layouts and formats.

To meet these challenges, retailers will need to expand flexibility and create new features in existing facilities while continuing to integrate information technologies and data into these new areas of their business. This will result in the eventual linking of the cold chain to the supply side of retail, just as digital engagement is changing the consumer side.

Eater-tainment in grocery stores has turned the corner store into a destination. When visiting a brick-and-mortar store, today’s consumers expect to be entertained and want customized shopping experiences. This concept does create increased in-store engagement for millennial shoppers, but flexible facilities are needed as shopping types change, new styles are introduced and consumer needs continue to evolve. Updated and scalable equipment and technology are needed to support these advancements.

2. Need for transparency in food safety

A variety of healthy, fresh food options are accessible from most grocers, as many food retailers have adapted their facilities to meet this consumer demand. Supermarkets are offering prepared food options in addition to onsite food preparation stations as store concepts converge to keep up with this trend. Delivering the fresh food that consumers want while keeping the food safe, reliable and profitable is also a concern.

In order to consistently deliver in this area and maintain food safety as well as control shrinkage, food retailers are depending on facility data to increase visibility and control of the store equipment that maintains product freshness. Being able to access real time performance data in order to address potential food safety issues such as equipment downtime or refrigerant leaks can also reduce maintenance costs and better energy efficiency.

In addition to Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires those in the food industry to implement and document a program ensuring safe transport of food within the U.S. Preventing food loss and protecting customers from foodborne illnesses are critical concerns for retail store operators. By connecting the cold chain from farm to fork and focusing on monitoring and data, plus the new addition of cargo solutions and tracking can help address these concerns.

3. Continued focus on sustainability

Consumers are increasingly conscious of — and concerned about — the sustainability efforts of the brands they support. For many shoppers, a retailer’s reputation, as well as its impact on the environment, have become important factors in selecting where they shop. Food retailers need to achieve sustainable, optimized operations by providing solutions that address energy efficiency and ensure food safety.

Retailers can take advantage of different types of monitoring reporting to maximize energy performance across an enterprise of stores. Setpoint management helps retailers to sustain energy savings in the long term while ensuring that operational issues are actually fixed rather than given a temporary Band-Aid. Retailers can also earn financial incentives from utilities, conserve energy, minimize power interruptions, increase energy reliability and protect the environment by reducing power usage at times when demand on the electric power grid is high.

Refrigeration leak detection and minimization programs are also critical. Supermarkets must meet new regulatory requirements to avoid costly EPA fines related to refrigerant leaks. When you examine the cost of lost refrigerant, the degradation of refrigerated system performance and the potential for eventual food loss, the business case for implementing effective leak detection programs is clear.

Food retail facilities generate a significant amount of data, with information on key building systems, including HVAC and refrigeration equipment, which can provide an extensive picture of how their operations are running. Facility data is only going to become more valuable as new technologies are assimilated into an enterprise. The use of accrued performance tracking data can improve maintenance activities and allow management to plan out preventive maintenance measures.

4. Leveraging IoT and connected devices to optimize energy efficiency.

Recent retail customer feedback has shown that energy costs continue to be a top concern. With the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connecting coolers, freezers, HVAC units and others power-using equipment to a centralized program, retailers can get an accurate picture of their energy use. The information allows them to manage equipment performance and utilize settings for optimum temperatures and lighting.

Data insights from continuous remote monitoring help identify problem areas and opportunities for efficiencies, which can ultimately reduce costs. A solid IoT plan is critical to meeting customer expectations and building a positive brand.


As 2017 unfolds, change will be the one constant we can depend on. Successful grocery retailers will come through these fluctuations stronger by leveraging technology and adopting smart strategies to maintain food safety and sustainability, while making smarter business decisions that benefit their customers.

Ed McKiernan is president of the global retail solutions business at Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions.


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David’s Bridal alleviates stress — for associates and customers

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A specialty retailer’s new point-of-sale upgrade is helping to meet — and surpass — its customers’ expectations.

David’s Bridal has created a reputation for enabling brides—and her entire wedding party— to choose a gown right off the rack. But as it expanded its offerings and services, the retailer has also established a robust special order business.

“We feature bridesmaids dresses in 45 colors and 13 sizes, but we can’t carry all of these in-store,” Diane Garforth, the chain’s senior director of supply chain systems and operations said at Manhattan Associates’ Momentum conference in Las Vegas (May 8-11).

That’s where special orders come in. Once the measurements are taken and styles and sizes are recorded, the retailer creates the dress order, including a pick-up date. The chain added a mobile point-of-sale system to drive more flexibility and customer engagement during the shopper’s visit.

However, this homegrown solution had its share of issues. One of the biggest was a lack of insight into on-premise inventory and arrivals of incoming orders, an issue that could make stores — and associates —unprepared for in-store pickup appointments.

“Our associates couldn't use the devices to see if orders had arrived in store,” explained Rajesh Mathusamy, senior quality assurance analyst. “And if they were available, employees couldn't determine which orders were complete or if they needed to be assembled. We also couldn’t see if pending orders were in transit from the distribution center to the store.”

Ready for a POS refresh, David’s Bridal opted for a combination of iPods and iPad mini tablets that supported an integrated store inventory management system from Manhattan Associates. “It was like gaining an event management system that provided one view of the bride’s ongoing activity, including the status of all of her ordered gowns — hers, her bridal party’s, and even the mother of the bride,” Mathusamy said.

The solution also manages receiving operations for orders shipped to the store from the distribution center. Using the mobile device’s embedded scanner, associates scan item barcodes to confirm individual pieces packed in each delivery parcel, and can even validate when they add new items to orders waiting to be picked up.

The retailer piloted the integrated mobile POS system, which ran on the Apple-based iOS 9 operating system, in two stores in April 2016. Four more stores were rolled out three months later. By August, the new mobile POS solution was available chainwide.

David’s Bridal is currently preparing to upgrade its fleet of iPad Minis, which will be dedicated to store-level receiving operations, to the iOS 10 operating system, according to Mathusamy.


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