FINANCE

Survey: CFOs predict 5.9% increase in 2012 online sales

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Chicago — Survey results released Tuesday by BDO USA revealed that 51% of retail finance chiefs foresee a 5.9% increase in online sales for full-year 2012.

That compares to 4.1% and 4.5% expected increases in same-store sales and total sales, respectively.

The BDO Retail Compass Survey of CFOs, which examined the opinions of 100 CFOs at leading retailers located throughout the country, found that CFO sentiments were conservative compared to last year, when the respondents predicted 11.9% online sales growth.

The group said it expects an increase of 4.6% in holiday-specific online sales.

The looming presidential election may be tempering expectations for a strong holiday season, suggested BDO USA. With the most important shopping period of the year coming on the heels of November’s election, retailers will be monitoring the race closely, as CFOs believe the election and unemployment are the two issues that will have the greatest impact on consumer confidence. In addition, the vast majority (78%) of CFOs say that they are concerned about potential tax reforms as a result of the election.

“Retailers are still seeing a great deal of top-line growth in e-commerce, and that is leading to optimistic expectations for the holidays,” said Stephen Wyss, partner in the Retail and Consumer Products Practice at BDO USA. “It’s a solid outlook, but you can bet that every online sales offer, every promotion consideration, and every hiring decision this holiday season will be made with careful consideration of the impact of the presidential election on consumer confidence levels and the general state of the economy.”

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • 77% of CFOs report that they have maintained their investment in mobile commerce for the 2012 holiday season. Another 19% of retailers will increase their mobile investment this year to capitalize on or catch up to the growth in mobile commerce.
  • Showrooming isn’t of monumental concern, as 88% of CFOs say they do NOT view showrooming as a threat to their business. However, to be on the safe side, 25% of CFOs say they are improving their customer service model, and another 25% expanded options for in-store pickups and returns as part of a strategy to countermand showrooming. Other methods include product exclusivity (17%) and price matching with online retailers (17%).
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OPERATIONS

Wal-Mart sued yet again for alleged gender discrimination

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Nashville, Tenn. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is facing its third regional gender bias lawsuit since the Supreme Court rejected a nationwide class action filed by female workers in California and Texas.

Three female employees sued Wal-Mart in federal court in Tennessee on Tuesday, claiming discrimination against female workers in the company’s Region 43 which consists of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi.

Wal-Mart paid women less than men in comparable jobs and blocked promotions for female workers, the women alleged.

Wal-Mart Randy Hargrove dismissed the validity of the action, saying it is no more suitable for nationwide class action than the one the Supreme Court already rejected.

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News

More retailers jump on the Merchant Customer Exchange bandwagon

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Dallas — The Merchant Customer Exchange announced Tuesday that Bed Bath & Beyond, Dillard’s, Dunkin’ Brands, Gap, Sheetz and Wakefern Food Corp. are among those joining the existing lineup of merchants who are committed to creating a seamless mobile-commerce solution.

“We are seeing tremendous interest from merchants of all sizes,” said Dodd Roberts, MCX executive. “Merchants recognize mobile payment adoption will be limited until it can be used where consumers regularly shop. MCX offers unmatched scale, representing merchants with more than $1 trillion in annual sales across nearly every merchant vertical.”

According to Gap Direct president Toby Lenk, the retailer joined MCX in order to offer its customers a “mobile-payment choice that provides the highest levels of convenience, value, and security.”

Development of MCX’s mobile platform is underway, with initial focus on offering consumers and merchants a mobile-commerce solution that seamlessly integrates payments with a wide range of offers, promotions and services through virtually any smartphone.

Among those retailers that are already part of MCX are Wal-Mart Stores, Target, Sears Holdings, 7-Eleven, Best Buy, CVS/pharmacy, Darden Restaurants, Lowe’s and Publix.

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