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Ross Stores Q3 profit up 8%; cautious about holiday

BY Marianne Wilson

Pleasanton, Calif. — Ross Stores Inc. reported third-quarter profit of $171.6 million, up from $159.5 million a year earlier, on higher sales and gross margins. Looking ahead to the fourth quarter, the off-retailer forecast earnings below Street estimates and said it was adopting a more cautious outlook for the quarter.

"As we enter the fourth quarter, our merchants have acquired a wide array of exciting and sharply-priced name brand fashions and gifts to appeal to today’s value-focused shoppers. That said, we are up against our own challenging multi-year comparisons and an upcoming holiday season that we believe will be the most intensely competitive and promotional selling period in recent years,” said CEO Michael Balmuth.

Ross Stores said sales rose 6% to $2.4 billion. Comparable store sales increased 2%.

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Survey: Meaning, not price, drives gift purchases

BY Dan Berthiaume

Boston – A vast majority of shoppers say meaning is the most important factor in choosing a holiday gift to purchase. According to a new survey from online marketplace CustomMade, more than 90% of buyers surveyed said that the most important factor in choosing a gift this holiday season was its meaning to the recipient, while only 18% of respondents found an item’s low price to be highly important to their purchase decision.

In addition, the two most popular retail destinations for holiday shopping this year will be at local stores/independent retailers (32.7%) or online (39.5%), not at a mall or big box retailer (14%). Long lines (28% of respondents find them to be the worst part of holiday shopping) and anonymous merchandise (22% dislike finding the same items everywhere they shop) are the two main factors in the low popularity of malls.

And handmade, crafted goods from small businesses are of particular focus this year, as 40% of respondents said that their favorite type of gift to give was something created especially for the recipient, while 30% love giving something handmade. Additionally, 46.9% of respondents said that supporting small businesses and/or independent artisans was highly important in where they decided to shop.

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Thanksgiving sales have low social media promotion

BY Dan Berthiaume

Raleigh, N.C. – Thanksgiving holiday sales are not getting much social promotion this year from retailers. According to an analysis of 494 brand posts from eight retailers by social software company Expion, only 10 focused on Thanksgiving holiday sales (Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday), or just 2% of all brand posts, and only five of the eight retailers posted about holiday sales.

Expion analyzed posts from Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Sears, Staples, Target and Toys R Us between Oct.15 and Nov. 15. Target had the most Thanksgiving sales-related posts, and they generated average engagement rates. Penney, on the other hand, only had one post, but it was the top “sale” post and the third most successful post overall. The post drove users to Pinterest to engage with #BlackFriday deals.

Expion analysis shows that Penney’s cross-platform strategy proved successful, indicating that Pinterest is a key social platform for retail shoppers, and the real-life “wish list” drove engagement. And despite an increase in the number of retailers open on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday promotions were the only sales posted about on Facebook during the monitored time period.

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