OPERATIONS

Shopatron predicts factors that will impact retail shopping in 2012

BY Allison Cerra

San Luis Obispo, Calif. — An e-commerce solution for branded manufacturers on Friday released a new forecast on how retail shopping will be influenced by the Internet, in addition to mobile and social networking.

From January to December 2011, the percentage of visits to Shopatron brand partner stores from mobile devices grew from 6.5% to 12.2%, the company said, adding that it has projected that number will grow 18% to 20% by the end of next year. Additionally, Shopatron also predicted social networking will have a stronger influence on retail purchasing behavior in 2012, with the number of Shopatron clients using the company’s online marketing services to invest in Facebook ads or Facebook shops increasing from about 50% to 70%-75% by the end of 2012.

"We have seen rapid growth in mobile this year, with visits to our mobile optimized client stores approaching double what we saw at the beginning of the year," Shopatron online marketing manager Greg Squires said. "And we expect that number to nearly double again in 2012. With this level of traffic, we recommend that brands pay special attention to their mobile presence and mobile marketing tactics in the coming year."

Added Shopatron senior VP marketing Mark Grondin: “There’s an undeniable shift happening. Consumers are being conditioned to expect that they can shop anywhere, anytime and any way they like. Not just in stores, but also on their computers, their phones, their tablets, their TVs and soon on their refrigerators. Brands and retailers that don’t accommodate them are going to lose sales and loyalty."

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Collective Bias builds brand with addition of Berg

BY CSA STAFF

Kate Berg has been name president of Collective Bias, the rapidly growing social shopper marketing firm based in Bentonville, Ark. Berg will focus on organizational development at the firm which has grown to more than 30 employees in the roughly two years since it was founded and split her time between Bentonville and New York where an expanding roster of clients include Meredith Corp. and the Duane Reade drug chain.

Berg previously served as VP corporate communications at HFMUS, owner of brands such as Elle, Elle Decor, Woman’s Day, Car and Driver, Road & Track, Cycle World and Glo.com.

Collective Bias plans to leverage Berg’s background in technology and media to lead efforts to pair proprietary technology tools with solid influencer relationships. For example, Berg cited a new location-based application the company developed that has been in use for over two months by Social Fabric, Collective Bias’ own blogger and influencer community. The mobile application, called Lüm, allows shoppers to easily document their experiences in-store and post them to create their stories. The data associated with these shopper insights is part of the Social Fabric platform, according to Berg.

As an early player in social networking, Berg founded Avenue B in 2004, a regional social network with thousands of paying members and partner businesses. She co-founded and led her first funded venture in 2007 call M3 Mobile Social, a mobile social networking platform providing real time, location-based social networking on mobile and web. Berg is sought after speaker and author on topics of mobile and social media and was named one of Mobile Marketer’s "Mobile Women to Watch 2010."

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Stein Mart restates third-quarter loss

BY CSA STAFF

Stein Mart released restated third-quarter results Friday that showed an upwardly revised loss that wasn’t quite as bad as originally feared.

The company said its loss for the third quarter increased by an additional $1.3 million, or three cents a share, to $3.1 million, or seven cents, as the revised results reflected the impact of markdowns which weren’t accurately reflected in previously released figures. Stein Mart had previously reported a third-quarter loss of $1.8 million, or four cents a share, but then last week said it expected the size of the loss to increase by a range of $1.3 million to $1.6 million or three to four cents a share once accounting issues were resolved relating to the gross margin impact of markdowns.

Resolution of the accounting problems will allow Stein Mart to file its quarterly report with the Securities and Exchange Commission and regain compliance with NASDAQ listing requirements. The company also said it is working to put controls in place to address the material weakness.

As it was explained when the issue was first disclosed, July and August merchandise unit balances in the company’s legacy perpetual inventory system were understated as a result of a planned, but improperly executed, one-time override of an automated records purge process. The legacy perpetual inventory system is scheduled to be replaced with a new system, which is anticipated to go live in the first quarter of 2012. The company said transactions recorded in the retail stock ledger, which is the accounting system of record for inventory and cost of merchandise sold, were correct except for permanent markdowns.

The issue occurred as Stein Mart was experiencing challenging sales conditions. Same-store sales declined 2.9% and total sales declined 3.5% to $258.5 million during the third quarter and conditions didn’t appear to improve in November when comps declined another 4.6%. Stein Mart is attempting to revert to more of an every day low price strategy and the weak results are due in part to cycling against prior year periods of heightened promotional activity.

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