STORE SPACES

ShopperTrak: Black Friday store traffic down

BY Marianne Wilson

Visits to physical stores and shopping centers on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday fell this year amid big increases in online spending.

According to ShopperTrak, shopper visits were down 1% for the two-day period compared to last year, with a 1.7% decline in traffic on Black Friday and a versus 2017. This slight traffic variance is consistent with data results over the last several years, the firm noted, with the decline beginning to flatten out.

“The fact that the combined shopper visits remained almost the same this year compared to the last three years proves that the notion of Black Friday not being popular anymore is a myth,” said Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting for ShopperTrak, a Tyco Retail Solutions’ brand. “Shopping in physical stores during the holidays continues to be an exciting annual event for consumers and based on the Black Friday traffic data, retailers are in for a successful holiday season.”

Online sales reached a record of $6.22 billion Black Friday, up 23.6% from last year, according to Adobe Analytics. Online sales on Thanksgiving Day rose 28% to $3.7 billion, making it the fastest-growing day for e-commerce sales in history.  Consumers who didn’t want to shop in stores nonetheless flocked there to pick up goods, with click-and-collect orders growing 73% from Thursday to Friday, a sign that retailers are successfully bridging online and offline retail operations, Adobe said.

Eight of the 10 busiest shopping days (as predicted by ShopperTrak) are still to come, including Super Saturday, which will fall on Dec. 22, and the Sunday before Christmas, Dec. 23. Notably, for the third year in a row, there are four Saturdays in December prior to Christmas Day, which will enhance the importance of both Dec. 8 and Dec. 15. In addition, similar to last year, the Saturday after Christmas, Dec. 29, is expected to be one of the busiest shopping days taking the last spot on the top 10 busiest day’s list.

“To ensure success, retailers must have their inventory well-stocked with quality, high-demand products and their staff prepared,” said Field. “Providing an unparalleled customer experience throughout the shopper journey makes the season festive and fun and will bring shoppers back well beyond the holidays.”

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Gap looking to close hundreds of namesake stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Gap Inc. is set to take drastic action with regards to its ailing namesake division — and sooner rather than later.

Speaking on the chain’s quarterly call with analysts, Gap CEO Art Peck said that the biggest challenge with the Gap brand has to do with certain “legacy elements,” notably real estate obligations that currently “encumber” the business. The company operates 775 Gap stores globally, and “the range from the very best to the very worst is extremely broad,” Peck added.

“Addressing the bottom half of the fleet represents over $100 million of earnings contribution opportunity and it is that portion of the fleet that is dragging down the brand,” he said. “This is the piece of the business that we are firmly committed to addressing with urgency.”

Peck, who spoke with analysts shortly after the retailer released its third quarter results in which sales at the namesake division tumbled 7%, said the company is evaluating Gap flagship stores around the world, with an objective eye on which ones provide sufficient value to keep.

“Beyond that, there are hundreds of other stores that likely don’t fit our vision for the future of Gap brand specialty store, whether in terms of profitability, customer experience, traffic trends, importantly the ROI structure and/or near and long-term relevance to the brand,” Peck said. “These stores are a drag on the health and a drag on the performance of the brand.”

Peck told analysts strategic action on the Gap fleet is overdue.

“There likely will be a cash cost to exit many of these stores, which we will attempt to minimize with appropriate sequencing,” he said. “But I plan to exit those that do not fit the future vision quickly. I’m going to move thoughtfully, but aggressively.”

The CEO emphasized that stores remain an important part of the customer journey, and that there are a significant number of specialty and outlet Gap stores that have positive trajectory and long-term relevance.

“It is this healthy core of the brand that we will focus on to deliver future value,” he said.

More details about Gap store closures are expected when the company provides its forecast for the next fiscal year.

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Advocacy brand Beautycounter makes brick-and-mortar debut

BY Marianne Wilson

A fast-growing brand that is an advocate for safer skin care and cleaner cosmetics has opened its first physical store.

Beautycounter, which develops and distributes its own skin care, cosmetics and personal care products, has set up shop in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. The 540-sq.-ft. store stocks the brand’s full collection of skin-care regimens and its most popular products, ranging from sunscreens to lipsticks.

Launched in 2013 with a mission “to get safer products into the hands of everyone,” Beautycounter is credited with helping to drive a growing national movement to demand better regulations of the beauty industry. Through its trademarked The Never List, the company prohibits the use of what it describes as “more than 1,500 questionable or harmful ingredients” in its products, well beyond the 30 banned by U.S. law. Beautycounter also advocates for stronger cosmetic safety laws which have stood largely unchanged since 1938.

“If our mission is to get safer products into the hands of everyone, we have to be able to meet customers wherever they are shopping,” said Beautycounter founder and CEO Gregg Renfrew, who sold her early Internet start-up, The Wedding List, to Martha Stewart in 2001. “We know that our story is best told person-to-person, and we are thrilled to add a physical retail store to the progress we’ve made in educating consumers and advocating for better beauty.”

The new store’s design elements are borrowed from Beautycounter’s modern headquarters in Santa Monica, California, mixed with references to vintage New York. Customers can sample brand favorites while seated at an old-school beauty counter (a nod to the brand’s name and reminiscent of stores past).

In addition to product, the store is intended to provide a hub of community engagement for education and Beautycounter’s advocacy efforts. A neon sign that reads “It’s Your Call” points to a custom New York phone booth, complete with a branded “blue pages” phone book with the names and numbers of every member of Congress. In under a minute, customers are automatically connected and can read a provided script to lend their voices in support of better beauty laws.

Beautycounter offers multiple points of education designed to help customers make safer and more-informed choices in their lives beyond the store. iPads highlight facts on the clean beauty industry and give a deeper dive into the company’s rigorous ingredient selection process, product reviews, FAQs, and new launches. Wallet-sized cards with the top 30 most harmful, common ingredients on The Never List are available for customers looking to make safer swaps with the products they already own. And to help customers establish a cleaner routine in their own homes, Beautycounter features a museum-like washroom with suggested replacements from like-minded personal-care product brands. It also provides takeaway “clean maps” to suggest similar businesses in the area.

Beautycounter sells its product online and through a vast network of independent consultants. It previously tested physical retail with summer pop-ups on Nantucket (Massachusetts) and in East Hampton, N.Y. Past and present partners include Target, J.Crew and Goop.

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