Survey: CFOs adjust to new retail reality
Toronto A survey released Monday by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC), found that as the 2010 holiday season approaches, retail CFOs have shifted their focus from reducing operating costs to driving profitable sales through better strategy execution, improvements to merchandising effectiveness and inventory management.
According to PwC’s 2010 Global Retail CFO survey, conducted by its Retail Consulting Services, many retail CFOs reported that customers are beginning to feel more optimistic about spending and retail chains are responding with initiatives to attract customers back into stores by investing judiciously in inventory and technology.
This was in contrast to last year’s report, said PwC, which showed a significant focus on managing in the midst of the recession, leading to stringent monitoring of inventory controls and capital expenditures and driving reductions in operating costs.
“Reducing investment in inventory is still a management priority, but retail CFOs surveyed said that this year they were allowing inventory levels to grow selectively in core categories. CFOs described their mood as cautious optimism, as they were starting to shift their focus to more strategic initiatives like profitable growth, international expansion, board management and judicious real estate portfolio optimization,” said Antony Karabus of PwC’s Retail Consulting Services.
Among the key findings, 49% of CFOs surveyed said they believe their customers are feeling slightly more optimistic about their financial situation and have begun to slowly resume retail purchases. To more effectively communicate with those customers, survey respondents said retailers are more focused now on spending advertising dollars on retaining and growing current customers instead of acquiring new shoppers. Some cited modest early successes with social marketing programs while others continued to use more traditional campaigns such as circulars, catalogs and other brand-building campaigns.
With regard to e-commerce, most CFOs surveyed said the majority of retailers have not achieved the needed scale to make online sales significant to their financial performance. While all participating retailers have web sites, only 67% of CFOs said that their sites were actually e-commerce transactional sites. All participants said they felt some degree of channel blurring as customers often use web sites for product research or competitive price checking and then buy in store or at a competitor.
Regarding real estate, many retailers surveyed stated they were generally unable to get significant concessions from landlords except on renewals where they were able to better negotiate controls on future increases especially in strip malls and enclosed malls that were not Tier “A” class shopping malls. About a third of retailers surveyed continued to defer new store openings where possible, but those that deferred did so on a smaller percentage of planned new stores.
Respondents set their 2010 holiday priorities as cash flow management, tighter management of inventory and sustainable reductions to SG&A. New to the list of key CFO priorities from last year was a heavier focus on quality of talent. Ten percent of CFOs felt that they had talent gaps either at store level or in corporate support centers in order to navigate through today’s challenging economy.
The 2010 Global Retail CFO survey was compiled from interviews with 56 retail CFOs, including 33 North American and 23 International retail chains in the specialty, grocery and department store sectors.
CSA Editor’s Pick: Aeropostale’s Times Square Flagship
Aeropostale is betting big on New York City’s Times Square, opening a 19,000-sq.-ft. global flagship — its largest unit and second street front location to date — in the heart of the tourist Mecca. It’s estimated that Times Square gets two million visitors on a daily basis.
The two-level store is intended to raise the teen retailer’s profile and serve as a platform for its international expansion. By the end of this year, the chain will have 50 stores in Canada and 10 in Dubai.
“Times Square has become a true shopping destination. We think this store will set the foundation for our global reach,” said Ken Ohashi, investor and media relations, Aeropostale, which operates 901 namesake stores in 49 states and Puerto Rico, and 40 P.S. from Aeropostale kids stores in 12 states.
With a 120-ft.long, digital billboard (two million pixels) that wraps around the exterior and into and out of the store, the new Aeropostale more than holds its own against such high-wattage neighbors as Forever 21 and American Eagle Outfitters. It has a friendly, engaging feel — and doesn’t forget the interactive elements that its core teen audience craves. On the second floor, in a 700-sq.-ft. room signed The Balcony, shoppers can dance with virtual Aeropostale models and have their images displayed on the billboard some 20 minutes later. (With windows facing three sides, The Balcony also allows an unparallel view of Times Square below.)
“We wanted to give them time to get outside and be able look up and see themselves,” Ohashi said.
The interior celebrates the store’s New York City locale, using such authentic materials and elements as subway tiles and subway-styled mosaics, in a way that never seems gimmicky or too overtly theme park. The gift cards are branded with Times Square symbols.
“We want to give customers a fun and engaging shopping experience while capturing the essence of New York City,” Ohashi said. “Also, Aeropostale is a New York City-based brand — we want to celebrate our hometown.”
The second-floor “Denim Library” department was inspired by the New York Public Library, and features antique lighting fixtures, library ladders and book-styled signage. It’s even set off with a fiberglass lion statue modeled on the marble lions that guard the library entrance.
The design of the denim department was inspired by the New York Public Library. The fiberglass lion sculpture is modeled after the marble lions that sit outside the library’s entrance.
Also on the second floor is the “SoHoShop,” which displays a good deal of the store’s exclusive merchandise (15% to 20% of the mix is unique to Times Square). The space is surrounded by a cast-iron facade and, in keeping with the Soho theme, has mahogany wood floors, a pressed tin ceiling and brick walls. A Brooklyn Bridge-etched mirror hangs behind the cashwrap
Aerospostale is using the extra space the store provides to blow out some of its core departments — the denim selection, for example, is the largest of any store in the chain — and up-and-coming categories, such as accessories.
“This store reflects our evolution into a teen lifestyle brand,” said Scott Birnbaum, senior VP marketing, Aeropostale. “Over the years, we have integrated more fashion into our assortment, and we are really able to focus on that here because of the added space.”
In keeping with its surroundings neighborhood, the new Aeropostale will keep late hours: it will be open to midnight Monday through Wednesday, and to 1 am Thursday through Sunday. An area on the first floor near the front door will be separated from the rest of the store and remain open two hours after the store closes.
As to the store’s projected volume, Birnbaum said the chain’s mall stores average $635 per square foot.
“This store will do significantly more,” he added.
This is Aeropostale’s third store in New York City. The retailer posted a 3% same-store sales increase in September, and recently opened a 34th Street store. Next month, a Brooklyn unit on Fulton Street will also launch.
Aeropostale is located in a building that formerly housed Bank of America and MTV Studios space. The store was designed by Gha design studios, Montreal.
Aeropostale opens Times Square flagship
NEW YORK Aeropostale is taking a bite out of the Big Apple with its new flagship store in New York’s Times Square.
The 19,000-sq.-ft. store, located at 1515 Broadway at 45th Street, features two levels of shopping, including a dedicated space for a ‘T-shirt Shop,’ a ‘Dorm Room,’ a ‘Jean Library,’ as well as a second floor ‘Viewing Room’ which will treat customers to an unparalleled view of Times Square.
“Times Square is the ‘Crossroads of the World’ so it’s fitting for Aeropostale to open our flagship store here,” said Tom Johnson, Co-CEO of Aeropostale, Inc. “This is the perfect platform for our international growth and we look forward to introducing and sharing our brand with the millions of visitors and New Yorkers who pass through this great city each year.”