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Thanksgiving weekend sales hit record high

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Retail sales broke records during the Thanksgiving weekend, climbing 16%, according to a survey by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation. Shoppers spent $52.4 billion, up from $45 billion last year.

A record 225 million shoppers visited stores and malls over the Black Friday weekend, up from 212 million last year. Shoppers on average spent $398.62, up from $365.34 last year, the NRF said.

Apparel and electronic sales were particularly strong, according to the NRF, as shoppers flocked to stores for early doorbuster deals.

“It’s a good, encouraging sign the consumer is out there despite all the distractions,” said Marshal Cohen, an analyst at NPD Group, in a Bloomberg report. “We’ll have an OK holiday.

However, Cohen and some analysts warned that the strong Thanksgiving holiday may simply have pulled sales forward from December.

Many retailers opened earlier than ever this year, with Macy’s, Target and Best Buy among the retailers opening at midnight. Given the strong sales and crowds the stores attracted, industry experts predicted the midnight start on Black Friday will become increasingly commonplace. The midnight opening was especially popular with teenagers and young adults.

“Now that we’re open at midnight, we’re getting an entirely different customer," Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren told Reuters, speaking of night owl shoppers under age 30.

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Shoppers gave thanks for online deals

BY CSA STAFF

RESTON, Va. — Retailers who promoted their online presence as a way to avoid the crowds this past weekend were rewarded for their efforts with record sales on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

The online measurement firm ComScore said Black Friday online sales increase 26% to $816 million and Thanksgiving Day sales increased 18% to $479 million. Both figures are noteworthy as physical retailers also recorded a record turnout and sales, according to the National Retail Federation. Including the online sales from the weekend, ComScore puts online sales for the first 25 days of November at roughly $12.7 billion, or 15% more than last year.

“Despite some analysts’ predictions that the flurry of brick-and-mortar retailers opening their doors early for Black Friday would pull dollars from online retail, we still saw a banner day for e-commerce with more than $800 million in spending,” ComScore chairman Gian Fulgoni said. “With brick-and-mortar retail also reporting strong gains on Black Friday, it’s clear that the heavy promotional activity had a positive impact on both channels.”

Fifty million Americans visited online retail sites on Black Friday, representing an increase of 35%, versus a year ago, and each of the top five retail sites (Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Apple) achieved double-digit gains in visitors compared to last year, according to ComScore.

“Amazon.com once again led the pack, with 50% more visitors than any other retailer, while also showing the highest growth rate versus last year,” Fulgoni said. “However, it is telling that the top multi-channel retailers also showed strong growth in visitors, demonstrating the importance of the online channel to the retail industry as a whole.”

The same traffic trends and record sales likely are to be evident on Cyber Monday with most retailers running online only specials and filling inboxes with email marketing promotional efforts. Last year, Cyber Monday was the heaviest day of online spending ever with sales exceeding $1 billion and ComScore expects a new record will be achieved this year.

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The engagement advantage and holiday sales results

BY CSA STAFF

By Jackie Sloane

Earlier than ever opening hours over the holiday weekend placed unprecedented demands on store associates. Whether full time workers or among the hundreds of thousands of seasonal employees whose services are required to cope with the peak demands of the holidays, one thing is clear. Energy and attitude can amount to retailers’ “engagement advantage,” arguably the most crucial differentiating factor when it comes to influencing purchase decisions, sales and long-term loyalty.

We’ve all experienced the engagement advantage. Searching for a pair of jeans earlier this year, it was the focus, skill and knowledge of one clothing saleswoman in particular that turned what would have been a fruitless quest into a very satisfying experience for me and Macy’s. As a result, Macy’s secured a $300 sale of business separates, and more importantly my evangelism and loyalty going forward.

Achieving an engagement advantage requires a strategic, versus compartmentalized approach, a learning mindset, and doesn’t have to require a huge training budget. Consider the following seven points a roadmap:

  • Clarify the desired customer experience outcome. This supports you with making key judgments. What actions on the part of your associates would support that experience? In the example above, I experienced attentiveness, zero pushiness, and being heard, listened to, and, frankly, cared about. As a result, this woman found me pieces that have become favorites. Articulate the experience you want your customers to have in your store, so it can be repeated, remembered and focused on by all your associates. Revise all your communication, management and training processes to support that.

  • Take a fresh, rigorous, look at how you hire. Focus on what the top three drivers of success are for each position. For example, extensive electronics product knowledge may be less important than warm, focused attentiveness, and enjoyment in helping people find a great gift. As an executive coach and consultant, I have noticed that leaders will often abdicate this crucial aspect of building a team to an over-burdened human resource professional. They can over-rely on gut feelings and the laundry list generalities of a job description as a hiring tool. What’s the mission of the role? When you discipline yourself to identify the three key non-negotiable criteria for success it can have enormous impact on results. Keep this in mind when you hire management as well since you need managers who bring out the best in people. Practice this throughout your organization, and you will find yourself with a more effective workforce.

  • Challenge your own comfortable communication practices and commit to learning how you might improve. People often assume expectations are clear when they are not. They can assume instructions, including emails and memos are understood when they are not. Communicate expectations clearly, confirm understanding, and set up a feedback structure to address and resolve any questions or issues, particularly early on as people begin their roles. Everyone processes information a little differently, so include that in your communications. Confirming understanding and a follow up loop are often dropped out, and they make all the difference in reinforcing what matters as well as effective teambuilding and leadership. I ask coaching clients: what really matters to your boss? What are your boss’s goals? How do you know your reports understand what really matters to you? It’s often not as clear as it needs to be. When people close this gap in understanding with superiors and those they manage, relationships and results improve significantly.

  • Take a tough look at the employee experience you provide. What’s the energy like among your people? Energy is contagious. Reporting on extensive study in The Loyalty Effect, consultants at Bain & Company found that maintaining customer loyalty is impossible without loyal employees, and that this in turn impacts investor loyalty. Focus on cultivating an excellent employee experience that is coherent with the experience you want for the customer. The investment saves enormous costs associated with turnover. In spite of all the information on this, it’s surprising how often this is not practiced.

  • Include the importance of the role, and what the customer experience should be in your comprehensive orientation program, as well as what people need to know to be effective. The onboarding process is crucial to providing the framework for employees to understand expectations and know what success looks like. Be willing to continue to improve it.

  • Make it as easy as possible for your people to do what you want. Communicate consistently and regularly with a minimum of last-minute demands. When the right people are hired, understand what is expected of them, and are given the time, tools and support to perform well, they often do. Set up structures to hear feedback from employees, whether in regular meetings or via intranet. Listen to feedback and ideas from your people, thank them and use the information. Let people know how you have used their input. It builds ownership.

  • Celebrate and reward achievement and group success. Rewarding what’s working expands it, builds community, energy and sustainable momentum.

The engagement advantage provides a consistently excellent experience that builds goodwill in the marketplace among staff and customers and offers retailers an enduring competitive advantage.

Jackie Sloane is an executive coach and consultant. Her firm, Sloane Communications, collaborates with clients to create global engagement strategies and group leadership programs. [email protected]

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