TECHNOLOGY

Super Saturday could attract more shoppers than Thanksgiving weekend

BY By Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The biggest shopping day of the year is approaching, and shoppers are ready — almost 156 million, to be exact.

On Saturday, Dec. 17, 66% of Americans – an estimated 155.7 million people –plan to or are considering taking advantage of Super Saturday sales to complete their holiday gift list, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. The survey, which asked 6,890 consumers about their holiday shopping plans, was conducted Dec. 1 – 7.

More people said they planned to shop on Super Saturday than those who said they planned to shop over Thanksgiving Weekend, an earlier survey revealed.

“While many consumers got a head start with holiday shopping by taking advantage of extraordinary sales over Thanksgiving weekend, more shopping and great deals are yet to come,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “We expect retailers will once again be competitive on price and value options in the final stretch, especially on Super Saturday.”

Shopper excitement is understandable when only one in 10 consumers — equivalent to 24 million people — have finished their holiday shopping. That means 90% of holiday shoppers are still in need of gifts, food, décor and/or other holiday items before the big day arrives. The average holiday shopper has completed 52.5% of their shopping, down from last year’s 53.5%, the study said.

Last-minute shoppers are planning to purchase their gifts online (52%), at department stores (42%), discount stores (27%), clothing or accessories stores (21%), electronics stores (18%), local/small business (14%) and grocery/supermarket stores (13%).

And they are always in search of a good deal — even on gift cards. Specifically, 41% of consumers receiving gift cards this holiday season will watch for a really good sale or promotion to maximize the value of the gift card. Once they receive that gift, 22% will use their card as quickly as possible, up from 20% last year. Another 19% of consumers said they will save their gift card for a rainy day or sometime when they feel they need to treat themselves, the report said.

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TECHNOLOGY

Five top trends for grocery stores in 2017

BY By Marianne Wilson

More digital connections and a speedier checkout process rank among the top trends for grocery shopping in 2017.

That’s according to John Karolefski, supermarket analyst and purveyor of GroceryStories.com, who also predicts a more diverse produce department, increased availability of meal kits, and better access to product information.

"The top trends for 2017 will result in improved loyalty to stores and more informed shoppers," said Karolefski.

Here are Karolefski's top trends for 2017:

More Digital Engagement: Millennials are starting families and becoming major buyers of groceries. To maintain the loyalty of these shoppers, supermarket chains will ramp up their digital tactics. For example, grocers will outfit their stores with beacons, which are sensors embedded throughout a store's shelves, signs and product displays. Beacons interact with smartphones using low-energy Bluetooth signals to provide coupons and other discounts. More grocers will promote their own mobile apps for shoppers to get discounts and specials. Meanwhile, online grocery ordering and delivery will grow as shoppers opt for this convenience.

More Ways to Check Out: Shoppers want to pay for their groceries and leave the store as quickly as possible. Amazon's current test of a No-Checkout store in Seattle, relying on a special mobile app for checking in and out of a store, will increase interest in speedy checkout.

Retailers like Sam's Club and Kroger are testing new checkout options such as using a smartphone or a special handheld scanner that enable shoppers to scan and bag products while they shop. Other grocers will follow their lead.

More Diverse Produce Departments: Shoppers will find more organic fruits and vegetables, as well as local produce. Meanwhile, the growing number of Hispanic-American shoppers will prompt grocers to stock such products as tomatillos and jicama. These trends will result in more diverse produce departments in 2017.

More Meal Kits: Grocery shoppers will be able to choose from a variety of "meal kits" that burst onto the scene with such startups as Plated, Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. Giant Eagle began selling its own meal kits this year, and more grocers will do the same in 2017. Meanwhile, manufacturers such as ConAgra and Campbell Soup have launched their own meal kits, and other food makers will follow.

More Access to Product Information: Nearly 30,000 grocery products will bear a new SmartLabel on packages by the end of 2017 to give consumers easy access to detailed information about what they are buying. Shoppers will be able to scan this sophisticated barcode in the store or do an online search to reach a landing page for information on ingredients and other attributes of a wide range of consumer packaged goods.

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TECHNOLOGY

GNC closing all stores — for one day — for major revamp

BY By Marianne Wilson

GNC Holdings is changing its pricing structure and marketing, and adding tech enhancements to its store environment as it looks to replace what it described as “an old broken model.”

The company announced that all corporate stores will close on Dec. 28 and reopen on Dec. 29, when GNC will offer customers a “dramatically improved experience with the launch of One New GNC.”

As part of the new experience, the company will offer single pricing both in store and online, replacing multiple pricing structures across channels and membership levels. A new loyalty program named My GNC Rewards is designed to give consumers an easy to use incentive to shop GNC. The program will be supported by the launch of a new GNC mobile app available on or before Dec. 28.

As part of the upgrade, the retailer is rolling out new POS terminals across the chain that will speed the checkout process, and help guide customer decisions based on purchase history and manage loyalty programs.

In addition, associates will be armed with tablets that support their training and will help them to answer customers' questions and recommend products and wellness regimens.

“As we said on our last conference call, we're making these investments because we believe in this business, its future and our ability to return to growth and deliver shareholder value," said Robert F. Moran, interim CEO, GNC, which operates 4,464 U.S. locations. "The New GNC leaves the old, broken model behind. We're confident it will have a positive impact on the business, but it will take time for the changes to take hold and translate to improved financial results."

The new initiative will launch in all 4,464 U.S. owned and franchised locations when stores open Dec. 29.

GNC has been challenged with slumping sales. Same-store sales fell 8.5% and profit dropped from $45.7 million to $32.3 million in its last quarter.

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