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Survey: Gift cards drive store traffic

BY Marianne Wilson

Oklahoma City — Seventy-four percent of shoppers plan to give one or more gift cards this holiday season, and nearly 30% planned on giving five or more gift cards, according to a study by the Retail Gift Card Association (RGCA). The results show that gift cards drive store traffic, with 78% of consumers planning to spend their cards at the retailer’s brick-and-mortar location

The Holiday Gift Card Trend Tracker Survey finds that the number of gift cards consumers plan to purchase as gifts this year increased by 71%.

"This survey shows ways that retailers can compete for savvy consumer dollars by adding holiday promotions and offering online and mobile gift card options such as e-gift codes,” said Jennifer Tramontana, spokesperson for the Retail Gift Card Association.

Additional key insights from the survey include:

Restaurants and department stores will benefit most from gift card promotion this holiday: Consumers are most likely to give cards from these types of retailers (57% plan on giving a restaurant gift card this year), and they most want to receive cards from these businesses as well (60% hope for a department store gift card).

Convenience and practicality drive the decision to give gift cards: 79% of consumers give gift cards because they know the recipient can purchase what they want, and 70% give them for convenience.

Consumers are embracing more online and mobile options: 56% plan to stay home and shop on cyber Monday, and 83% like the option to send physical gift cards or e-codes.

Promotions drive gift cards sales: 17% of consumers wait for a promotion before buying a gift card, and 23% almost always look for promotions at competing retailers before deciding where to buy a gift card.


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Dollar Tree Q3 profit down

BY Marianne Wilson

Chesapeake, Va. — Dollar Tree Inc. reported that its net income in the third quarter fell 19%, impacted by a one -time gain a year related to selling its stake in the Ollie’s Holdings chain. The company forecast results for the fourth quarter below Street expectations.

The company posted earnings of $125.4 million for the period ended Nov. 2, down from $155.4 million a year ago.

Revenue rose 9.5% to $1.88 billion. Analysts expected revenue of $1.91 billion.

Same-store sales were up 3%.

“During a very cautious consumer environment, comparable-store sales increased as the result of growth in both consumer basics and growth in seasonal and variety merchandise, with our higher margin variety categories growing at a faster pace,” said Bob Sasser, CEO, Dollar Tree. “Our comparable-store sales increase was driven principally by increased customer traffic, as new customers are finding Dollar Tree to be part of their solution to balance their household budgets."

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Walgreens strengthens new digital and marketing division

BY CSA STAFF

Walgreens has named Sona Chawla, currently president of e-commerce, as president of digital and chief marketing officer. In this new role, Chawla will lead a newly created digital and marketing division, establishing an integrated digital, enterprise-wide marketing and customer loyalty and insights group to advance Walgreens “Well Experience” strategy.

“Digital technology continues to drive major change in retail and health care, and Walgreens is moving full speed ahead to harness and combine digital, marketing innovations and customer loyalty and insights to give customers what they want, where and when they want it,” Greg Wasson, president and CEO said. “With Sona’s success in establishing Walgreens as a retail digital pioneer, her leadership of our combined digital and marketing efforts will continue to accelerate our Well Experience strategy to step out of the traditional drugstore format and create a truly differentiated experience for customers and patients.”

“Bringing our digital, marketing and consumer technology together and linking it with the powerful consumer data and insights we get through our Balance Rewards program and digital channels will further position Walgreens as a customer-driven brand,” Alex Gourlay, EVP and president of customer experience and daily living said. “With her experience and success in advancing Walgreens digital strategies and online customer experience, Sona is the perfect leader to accelerate our rapid evolution into omnichannel marketing and customer engagement.”

Walgreens also announced today that Graham Atkinson, SVP and chief marketing and customer experience officer, is retiring at the end of January 2014. Atkinson has been responsible for developing and leading Walgreens enterprise marketing and loyalty strategies, with a specific emphasis on customer experience. Atkinson led the successful and record-setting launch of Walgreens Balance Rewards customer loyalty program in 2012, now with more than 85 million members.

“Graham has had an extraordinary impact on Walgreens during his three-year role with the company, and we are indebted to him for his vision, leadership and accomplishments,” Wasson said. “We asked Graham to join our team and take on a singular focus — to launch the most successful customer loyalty program in retail history — and he did just that. Beyond Balance Rewards, importantly, he also instilled customer-centric principles into our culture and took on the additional role of chief marketing officer in the past year to build and develop our corporate marketing function.”

Chawla, as president of digital and chief marketing officer, will lead the new Digital and Marketing Division that combines three existing groups — e-commerce, corporate marketing and customer loyalty and insights — that have significantly advanced Walgreens Well Experience strategy. These groups have built a strong corporate brand through an industry-leading web and mobile presence, the Balance Rewards loyalty program and customer segmentation and insights. Bringing these teams together will allow the company to leverage its combined talent, knowledge and assets to accelerate its omnichannel vision as part of Gourlay’s Customer Experience and Daily Living organization.

“Our goal is to optimize our marketing investments and mix to reach consumers where they are, as their use of digital media continues to escalate,” Chawla said. “This means more than just adding digital media to our marketing portfolio. We also will adopt a digital mindset throughout our marketing efforts.”

Chawla joined Walgreens in July 2008 as SVP of e-commerce and was promoted to her current position in January 2011. Her team has been responsible for the company’s digital strategy and implementation to support the health and daily living businesses across the Walgreens portfolio of web sites, mobile and stores.

Prior to joining Walgreens, she was VP global online business at Dell from 2006 to 2008 and worked at Wells Fargo’s Internet Services Group from 2000 to 2006, where she held several roles and left the company as EVP online sales, service and marketing. Prior to Wells Fargo, Chawla worked for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) from 1999 to 2000 and Mitchell Madison Group from 1994 to 1999. In 2012 Chawla was appointed to the board of directors of Express, a specialty retail apparel chain. She earned a bachelor’s of art degree in mathematics and computer science from Wellesley College in 1990 and a master’s of science degree in management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management in 1994.

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