FINANCE

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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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

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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OPERATIONS

Report: More data breaches expected to surface

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — Following news that luxury giant Neiman Marcus experienced network breaches over the holiday shopping season, similar to those of Target Corp., unidentified sources told Reuters that at least three other attacks on well-known merchants could be revealed in the coming weeks.

According to the report, the sources said the additional breaches involved retailers with outlets in malls, but no more details have been given. Law enforcement has said that they suspect the perpetrators hail from Eastern Europe, and the latest reports suggest all the breaches could have been instigated by the same hackers.

Neiman Marcus said its cyber attack was discovered on Jan. 1 by an outside forensics firm. The retailer first reported the breach on Jan. 10, just three weeks after Target revealed that some 40 million payment card numbers had been stolen in its cyber attack. On Friday, Target said the data breach was worse than initially thought.

On Monday, Reuters reported that Democratic members of the Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives are calling for the panel to investigate the Target breach.

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