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Study: Back-to-school shopping starts earlier online

BY Dan Berthiaume

New York – Although overall back-to-school shopping is starting later in 2015 than the prior year, online back-to-school shoppers are getting an earlier start than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. According to a new trend report on back-to-school shopping from Internet marketing agency PM Digital, 30% of online shoppers will start buying back-to-school items at least two months before school starts, compared to 22% of overall shoppers.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of all back-to-school shoppers plan to start at least three weeks ahead of school in 2015, but that is down from three-quarters in 2014.

Other findings include:

• In 2014, back-to-school searches peaked the week ending Aug. 9 and then again the week ending Aug. 23.

• Terms like “school supplies” tend to have more volume than related terms like “school shopping” and “back to school sales.”

• YouTube viewers searching for back to school “haul” videos continue to rise as the web grows more visual, with school supplies also the leading topic.

• Google Shopping queries are growing much more rapidly than searches generally (though they are still outnumbered by text ads). In 2014, peak-week interest was 163% higher than three years earlier.

• Search queries for smartphones, computers, laptops and tablets during Back to School outstrips other traditional categories like clothes, backpacks, school uniforms and shoes. Smartphone searches peak just as the school year starts.

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New service offers real-time local mobile offers

BY Dan Berthiaume

Woodland Hills, Calif. – A good politician knows to focus locally, and increasingly retailers are following that lead. In that spirit BrightStreet Ventures, the technology affiliate of shopping center developer NewMark Merrill Companies, has launched BlueList, a real-time mobile offers service for local merchants and nearby consumers.

The service, which launched on July 4, has more than 60 merchants signed up across a range of retail, restaurant, and service categories in Southern California's. Participating brands include Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Cold Stone Creamery, PostalAnnex, Subway, Walgreens, Jersey Mikes, and Sport Clips.

Merchants can post mobile offers in BlueList for $.99 per offer per location per day and time-limited flash deals for $2.99 per offer per day. There is no revenue share and BlueList doesn't have start-up fees, memberships, or contracts for the merchants.

BlueList is the end result of an 18-month outreach effort with local merchants, national chains, and shopping center owner-operators. A central goal of BlueList is being able to work in all kinds of neighborhoods and with all kinds of merchants. This has led BrightStreet Ventures to partner with shopping center operators like Regency Centers, Combined Properties, Westwood Financial Corp., DSB Properties, and NewMark Merrill Companies.

BlueList provides consumers with a proximity app that highlights daily deals at the places around them they already like to shop. Offers are sortable by Nearby, Popular, Category, or Favorites. When redeeming an offer, customers can provide feedback on the experience directly to the merchants themselves.

“While working with our over 1,500 tenants in three states, it became obvious that to be successful, tenants needed to have both an in-store and an on-line presence,” said Sandy Sigal, president and CEO of NewMark Merrill Companies. “The options available to our tenants were either paying a huge revenue share or needing to pay very large monthly commitments, and nothing provided a real-time opportunity for merchants to connect with consumers moment by moment. This led us to come up an inexpensive, localized, and real-time marketing platform that puts our small merchants on the same footing as the larger ones who can afford more expensive on-line platforms.”

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Retail disposition firm buys daily deal platform

BY Dan Berthiaume

Northbrook, Ill. – Hilco Merchant Resources LLC (HMR), a provider of retail disposition services such as liquidation and acquisitions, has purchased online retail and daily deal e-commerce platform Deal Genius LLC.

Deal Genius was launched as a flash retail sales web business in 2004. The site delivers daily deals on brand name home goods, apparel, consumer electronics, pet supplies and other merchandise. The company was founded by CEO Chris Matsakis, who will continue in that role going forward.

Deal Genius will continue to be managed as an independent business within HMR. The site will expand with new products and services, including an infusion of merchandise from various HMR retail projects.

"This is a strategic move for HMR and a transaction that we’ve been evaluating for some time while reviewing whether to build out or to buy an e-commerce platform to complement our other successful sales channels,” said Michael Keefe, CEO of HMR. “Deal Genius provided us with both an immediately recognized e-commerce brand name, and the opportunity to tap into the knowledge and expertise of the innovative management team that built the successful online retail business from scratch.”

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