News

SWAT team ends hostage drama at Nordstrom Rack in Los Angeles

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Two armed men invaded a Nordstrom Rack in Los Angeles on Thursday night and took 14 employees captive, sexually assaulting one, injuring three others and locking the detainees in a storage room for hours, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The hours-long hostage drama ended early Friday with a police SWAT team surging into the shop and rescuing 14 workers. The armed men escaped.

For the full story click here.

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SUPPLY CHAIN

Retail imports to increase 2.3% in January under looming threat of port strike

BY Staff Writer

Washington — Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports is expected to increase 2.3% in January over the same month last year as retailers continue to urge labor and management to avoid a strike at East Coast and Gulf Coast docks, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. A strike would close 14 ports from Maine to Texas where nearly 15,000 dockworkers handle 40% of the nation’s ocean cargo.


“The strike deadline came and went at the end of December, but the threat of closing down nearly half our nation’s port capacity has only been postponed, not eliminated,” NRF VP for supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold said. “The uncertainty of what will happen in February has retailers implementing expensive contingency plans yet again and is a burden our economy cannot afford.”

The latest extension of contract talks between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance runs through Feb. 6 and comes after previous strike deadlines in September and October. The union and management are scheduled to meet next week under the supervision of federal mediators, but the ILA walked away from local talks affecting the Ports of New York and New Jersey earlier this week.


U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.25 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units in November, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. With most holiday merchandise already in the country, that was down 8.6% from October, and down 2.8% from November 2011. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent. December was estimated at 1.3 million TEU, up 6.5% from last year. January is forecast at 1.31 million TEU, up 2.3% from January 2012; February at 1.15 million TEU, up 6%; March at 1.25 million TEU, up 0.5%, April at 1.33 million TEU, up 1.7% and May at 1.42 million TEU, up 3.4%.

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said there were signs that retailers brought merchandise into the country early as the ILA’s December 29 strike deadline approached.


“We have seen a rise in the level of the retail inventory-to-sales ratio,” Hackett said. “This may be a reflection of importers stocking up ahead of the East Coast/Gulf coast port strike that was expected, though the run-up came well ahead of that.”

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FINANCE

Experian FootFall: Mixed results for holiday 2012

BY Staff Writer

New York — The 2012 holiday shopping season didn’t provide the sales and traffic lift anticipated by retailers, according to Experian FootFall. The company said the season got off to a blazing start as consumers responded to some of the earliest Black Friday sales and promotions, effectively extending the Black Friday shopping experience to a four-day event. Following this annual start to the season that accounted for billions of dollars in retail sales, the 2012 calendar shift began to impact consumer behavior.

“We typically see a spending lull just after Black Friday until about a week prior to Christmas, and with this year’s calendar that provided the most days possible between Thanksgiving and Christmas consumers seemed to extend this lull waiting to capitalize on late-season deals,” said Roseanne McCauley, VP of the Americas for Experian FootFall.

Although sales and traffic were moderate during the first half of December, spending improved towards the end of the season as the annually strong Super Saturday approached. Anticipating this late season push spurred by procrastinating and deal-conscious shoppers, retailers employed many of the strategies from Black Friday weekend, including deeply discounted items and extended hours, to convert as many late-season sales as possible. And while Super Saturday weekend was still a very large event for the industry, sales and traffic patterns ultimately fell short of both retailers’ and economists’ expectations.

Following Christmas, retailers saw some expected strength on Dec. 26 as the annual rush of returned items and post-Christmas sales and promotions attracted shoppers, but the impact was weaker than retailers anticipated. Nevertheless, gift-card redemptions and extended post-holiday sales continue to drive consumers to various retail locations and the full impact of the season may not be known until late January or early February.

“Super Saturday didn’t perform as expected but it still drew hundreds of millions of shoppers and accounted for billions in sales, so reports stating the day was disappointing for retailers are a bit of a red herring,” said McCauley. “In reality the 2012 holiday shopping season was successful, posting slight gains versus a very solid 2011 behind the strength of Black Friday weekend and the annual late season push. Overall retailers should be pleased with performance and cautiously optimistic in early 2013 as gift-card redemptions continue to boost sales.”

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