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U.S. retail sales, excluding autos, up solid 0.7% in December

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Overall retail sales rose 0.2% last month, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast a 0.1% increase. Excluding autos however, December retail sales were up a solid 0.7%.

Auto sales fell 1.8%, dragging down broader figures, a reflection of bad weather and calendar quirks than the start of a new trend. Retail spending figures for prior months were revised down to a 0.5% increase in October and a 0.4% rise in November.

Total retail sales for 2013 were up 4.2% from the prior year, a slowdown from 2012’s 5.4% pace and 2011’s 7.5% gain, the Commerce Department said.

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Study: Consumers engage with retailers’ Facebook pages more than brands’ websites

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Consumers engage with retailers on Facebook more than they do on the retailers’ own websites. Nine-in-10 consumers say how much they spend is impacted by their social media engagement with a brand. These are some of the findings of a study by Infosys, a leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing.

In addition to the impact of social media on spend, the “Rethinking Retail” study reveals how retailers are struggling to create the kind of consistent and personalized experience online and in stores that drives increased sales. Nearly two-thirds of consumers say that consistency plays a role in their tendency to spend with a brand (63%), while 34% say high consistency across a brand’s channels would mean a greater spend, while a lack of consistency results in a reduction in their spending (39%).

Other key findings of the report include:

• Eighty-nine percent of those who interact with a retailer online through any social media outlet say that the interaction has an impact on their purchase.

• Women are twice as likely as men to be influenced by Pinterest; YouTube influences twice as many men as women.

• Only 2% of all people polled say that FourSquare has any influence on their purchase.

• Though 62% of retailers reported that they offer personalized offers in store, only 20% of consumers report seeing ‘in-store only’ personalized offers. And 59% of consumers who have experienced personalization believe it has a noticeable influence on their spending.

• Consumers are three times more likely to impulse-buy in a store than online.

• Nearly all (96%) of consumers expect retailers to inform them of new products. Only 34% of retailers, however, can track consumer trends in real-time, reducing their ability to rollout appropriate offers which can drive sales.

• Lack of technology is the most common factor (38%) preventing retailers from creating a more integrated customer experience within their organization.

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Jos. A Bank shareholder pushes toward Men’s Wearhouse deal

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — Eminence Capital, a 4.9% stakeholder in Jos. A. Bank and a 10% shareholder in Men’s Wearhouse, said it supports Men’s Wearhouse’s proposed acquisition of the company and demanded that Jos. A. Bank’s board sit down and engage in "meaningful, good faith negotiations."

Efforts to merge the two retailers have dragged on for months, with each chain having their offers to acquire the other rejected.

Eminence filed suit against Jos. A. Bank on Monday for rebuffing the latest $1.54 billion bid from Men’s Wearhouse and for toughening the retailer’s anti-takeover defenses in the wake of the offer. Earlier this month, Jos. A. Bank’s board changed the trigger on its “poison-pill” anti-takeover defense so that it is activated when someone buys 10% of the company’s shares, instead of 20%.

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