MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Survey: Post-holiday shopping looks strong

BY Dan Berthiaume

Austin, Texas – A majority of consumers (79%) plan to shop the end-of-year sales after the holidays are over. In addition, a new survey from RetailMeNot and The Omnibus Company shows that nearly half of consumers (42%) report that they typically end up returning at least some gifts they receive for the holidays.

Parents are more likely than those without kids (54% vs. 37%) to end up returning at least some winter holiday gifts, while 18-34-year-olds are nearly three times more likely than those ages 35 and up (11% compared to 4%) to return 25% or more of the gifts they receive for the winter holidays.

Determined to get what they want, consumers report that they are more likely to return an unwanted holiday gift (35%) than to keep it (27%), re-gift it (21%) or donate it (13%). Compared to last year, consumers report that they are more likely to return (35% vs. 31%) or re-gift (21% compared to 17%) unwanted presents this year.

More than one in three (35%) consumers surveyed have purchased a gift for themselves because no one got it for them for the holidays, and 64% of consumers planning to shop post-holiday sales plan to buy items for themselves during this time. According to the survey, it is a less popular time to shop for others, such as significant others (42%) or relatives (29%). It is more common for respondents that make more than $50,000 a year than those who make less than that (83% compared to 76%) to plan to shop end-of-year sales. Females are more likely than males (54% compared to 47%) to plan to shop for themselves during end-of-year sales.

Nearly nine-in-10 (89%) respondents indicated that they have received a gift card as a winter holiday present and about two in three (67%) consumers say they are most likely to use a gift card they were given for the holidays less than a month after receiving it. In addition to shopping for themselves, some consumers even wait until post-holiday sales to purchase gifts for others. Three-in-10 (30%) holiday gift-givers report having purchased a present after the holidays were over for someone they knew they wouldn’t see until afterwards.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Survey: Millennials want gift cards

BY Dan Berthiaume

Pleasanton, Calif. – Nine-in-10 (89%) Millennnials want gift cards for the holidays, while 73% prefer receiving a gift card from a favorite store as opposed to receiving a specific gift. A new survey of more than 400 Millennials ages 18-28 from global prepaid card network Blackhawk Network also shows that 90% use gift cards to treat themselves to something they wouldn’t normally buy or use it in part to buy a more expensive item and 90% use gift cards to treat themselves to something they wouldn’t normally buy or use it in part to buy a more expensive item.

Survey results also show that:

  • 88% expect to give a gift card to someone this year.
  • 63% buy gift cards as a last minute gift.
  • 73% expect to spend between $10-$50 on a gift card for someone.
  • And some will buy gift cards online, 43% said they will buy them online.
  • Social determines their gift list: 46% are likely to use social media to determine who to send a gift card to.
  • They want brands to gift them: 71% want a gift card from a brand they follow on Facebook.
  • They want to give via social: 51% are interested in sending e-gift cards through social media.
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FINANCE

Alco Q3 net loss grows on one-time charges; three new stores planned

BY Dan Berthiaume

Copperell, Texas – Alco Stores reported a growing net loss during the third quarter of fiscal 2014 compared to the same period in the prior year. Net loss totaled $16.4 million, compared to $1.4 million.

Results in the third quarter of fiscal 2014 included a non-cash charge of $9.8 million related to a valuation allowance on the company’s cumulative deferred tax asset, and $1.1 million of non-recurring expenses attributable to merger activity.

Net sales from continuing operations, excluding fuel, increased 1% to $105.4 million during the third quarter of fiscal 2014, compared to $104.3 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2013. Same-store sales, excluding fuel, decreased 2.9% to $101.1 million during the third quarter of fiscal 2014.

Alco intends to execute five major initiatives to improve profitability and deliver shareholder value:

  • Maximizing the benefit of headquarters relocation to the Dallas area, which is enabling Alco to recruit experienced managers, buyers and marketers from top retail organizations.
  • Expanding gross margins by completing a price optimization initiative with Revionics, which increases top-line sales and gross margin by adjusting prices store-by-store and item-by-item based on detailed demand data.
  • Improving the real estate portfolio by closing unprofitable stores and opening more productive ones. By the end of fiscal 2014, Alco will have closed a total of 18 underperforming stores and opened three high-performing locations in regions with growing energy-based economies.
  • Upgrading IT with a new ERP system and a new supply chain service provider.
  • Reducing inventory and associated debt levels by, in addition to the store rationalization and IT upgrades, making a number of targeted changes in store layout and merchandise mix.

"Operating results in the third quarter were impacted by several significant one-time events, as we dealt with a proposed merger and also took steps to fix long-term problems that have hurt Alco’s profitability,” said Richard Wilson, president and CEO. “We recorded approximately $1.1 million in merger-related costs. We experienced a net reduction in gross margin dollars of approximately $5 million, primarily due to increased promotional activity in an attempt to reduce inventory and debt levels. In addition, Alco has closed eight underperforming stores in the first three quarters of fiscal 2014 and decided in October to close 10 more locations by year-end. Store-closing costs in the quarter were approximately $934,000. Finally, we recognized a large non-cash charge relating to the accounting for deferred tax assets on the company’s balance sheet."

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