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ShopperTrak: Holiday sales up 2.7% on lower traffic

BY Dan Berthiaume

Chicago — Despite the shortened holiday season and extreme weather in many areas of the country in the weeks leading up to Christmas, retailers finished the 2013 holiday shopping season with increased sales. According to ShopperTrak, during the holiday shopping season of November and December 2013, national retail sales increased 2.7% and foot traffic decreased 14.6% when compared to the same two months of 2012.

ShopperTrak’s initial data indicates shoppers spent $265.9 billion during this period. The 2.7% increase is slightly better than ShopperTrak’s early-season forecast of a 2.4% increase in sales. The 2013 holiday season marked the fourth consecutive year with positive GAFO retail sales, reflecting a growing economy.

“As we anticipated, retailers saw a gain in sales compared to last year as the economy continues to recover,” said ShopperTrak Founder Bill Martin. “However, consumers took a break from shopping after Thanksgiving weekend, so retailers were pressured to offer deep discounts and promotions in the final week before Christmas to finish the holiday on a positive note. In the future, retailers who promote throughout the season will be more successful than those who take a hiatus in the week or two after Thanksgiving. Promotions in early December offer retailers an opportunity to capture sales earlier without having to offer more extensive markdowns at the end of the season.”

Other notable statistics include:

  • Black Friday sales fell 13% compared to Black Friday last year.
  • ShopperTrak estimates that the strongest sales days were Nov. 29, Dec. 21, Dec. 23, Dec. 14 and Dec. 22, in that order. Black Friday, Nov. 29, also was the top traffic day, followed successively by Dec. 21, Dec. 23, Dec. 22 and Dec. 14.
  • Sales in the apparel and accessories category increased 3.5%, while traffic decreased 0.6% compared to 2012. Sales at electronics and wireless stores were up 4.8%, although traffic was down 12.9% year-over-year.
  • Compared to the 2012 holiday season, sales in the Northeast, South and West were up 1.9%, 3.2% and 5.1%, respectively. Sales in the Midwest were flat compared to 2012. Traffic in the Midwest, Northeast, South and West was down 17.1%, 15.8%, 14.2% and 12.1% year-over-year, respectively.
  • In first quarter 2014, ShopperTrak estimates retail sales to increase 2.8% despite an estimated 9% decrease in shopper traffic.

“We will continue to see the trend of steady sales increases as consumer confidence rises and the economy progresses,” said Martin. “And, while foot traffic will continue to slow due to changing consumer patterns, with more shoppers purchasing online or researching products online before heading to stores, retailers must remember an overwhelming majority of all retail sales in the U.S. will occur in brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers who deliver a seamless customer experience both in the store and across all channels will emerge ahead of the rest.”

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Big changes in store at Vera Bradley

BY CSA STAFF

Former Kohl’s and Carhartt merchandising executive Sue Fuller was named chief merchandising officer at Vera Bradley, an upscale retailer and designer brand looking to restore growth under the leadership of new CEO Robert Wallstrom.

Fuller joins Vera Bradly to fill the newly created head merchant position from Carhart where she served as SVP/GMM. Prior to that, she held positions with Polo Ralph Lauren, Land’s End, L.L. Bean and Kohl’s. In her new role, Fuller is tasked with building and communicating a compelling vision for Vera Bradley’s growth through line and brand extensions and ensuring consistency of the brand.

Vera Bradley is a designer of women’s handbags and accessories, luggage and travel items, eyewear, stationery and gifts. Founded in 1982, the company operates 84 full price stores and 15 outlet stores and also sells to specialty stores and department stores.

President and CEO Robert Wallstrom said Fuller’s talent and passion will bring more discipline to Vera Bradley’s merchandising processes.

“Her broad experience across various merchandise categories and price points added to our strong design organization will help us strengthen our current assortments, grow revenues and deliver solid margin results while further engaging our customer,” Wallstrom said.

He joined the company last November as president, CEO and a member of the board amid sagging sales for the iconic American brand. Wallstrom is intent on broadening the brand’s customer base, entering new markets and expanding the product offering.

Prior to Vera Bradley, Wallstrom served as president of Saks Fifth Avenue’s Off Fifth division and also led the upscale retailer’s high volume flagship location in Manhattan. A 30 year department store veteran, Wallstrom nearly doubled the Off Fifth store count to 71 units during his tenure.

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Comps and debt grow at Container Store

BY CSA STAFF

The Container Store posted a better than expected profit performance during its first quarter as a public company but offered a full year outlook analysts found underwhelming.

Container Store chairman and CEO Kip Tindell said the company was pleased with its operating results for the third quarter ended November 30. Sales increased 7.3% to $188 million thanks to a 4.7% same store sales increase and the addition of six new stores during the current fiscal year. It was the fourteenth consecutive quarter of comp growth for the operator of 63 stores. The company also posted adjusted earnings per share of 11 cents, three cents better than analysts forecast.

“These results demonstrate the strength of our differentiated business model, brand awareness, unique employee-first culture and solid execution by the entire team at The Container Store,” Tindall said. “With 63 stores today, we have a long runway of growth ahead of us as we expand our store base to realize the 300 plus store opportunity that we believe exists.”

The company, laden with debt of $368 million following its late October 2013 stock offering, said its operating activities during the quarter generated $10.2 million in cash. It ended the quarter with $10.8 million in cash and $68.1 million available on its revolving credit facilities.

For the full year, the company expects sales total $754 million and same store sales to increase 3.4%. Profits on an adjusted basis are expected to total 40 cents a share.

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