TECHNOLOGY

Amazon’s back-to-school sales start strong

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Based on the momentum of early back-to-school shoppers, Amazon is on pace to hit a record 80% sales growth for the season.

The online giant's school supplies sales have grown by 35% year-over-year in the first two weeks of the back-to-school shopping season, according to One Click Retail. Early back-to-school shopping only accounted for 9% of sales in 2016.

Last year, Amazon’s back-to-school sales hit a record 20% growth over the entire season. This year, the online giant has a total growth potential of over 80% for back-to-school 2017.

According to One Click Retail’s “Office Product” report, Amazon's sales of office products grew by 25% to reach over $2 billion in 2016, while remaining brick and mortar U.S. sales grew by only 1%. Accounting for more than 20% of total U.S. sales of office products, Amazon's double-digit growth continues into back-to-school 2017.

Sales of laptops and accessories have already earned more than $25 million. Tablet sales have nearly doubled (98% growth) and youth apparel is up by 61% over the same two weeks in 2016. Laptop accessories are up by 45%; laptops by 8% and calculators by 6%.

The online giant’s apparel sales also grew by 25% in 2016 to a value of $3.4 billion. Shoes grew more rapidly, with growth of 35% — bringing the company’s shoe sales to $1.6 billion for 2016, according to reports from One Click Retail.

Both the apparel and shoes product groups see a predictable annual shift in shopping habits during back-to-school, with parents turning to Amazon to purchase shoes and clothing for their school-aged children.

"While this early indication doesn't necessarily predict the more sales-heavy remainder of 'Back-to-School' season, it does show early velocity,” said Spencer Millerberg, One Click Retail CEO. “It paints a picture that more parents are multi-tasking on Amazon during 'back-to-school night' for those supplies vs. stopping by the store on the way home."

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TECHNOLOGY

Chinese e-commerce giant in joint venture with Marriott

BY Marianne Wilson

Alibaba Group Holding is expanding its online travel footprint.

The retailer has formed a joint venture with Marriott International that will make it easy for Chinese consumers to book hotel rooms across the 30 brands managed by the U.S. hotelier. Chinese customers will be able use Alibaba’s travel platform, called Fliggy, to book rooms and other related experiences at the hotels. The program will market directly to Alibaba’s customer base, provide a link between Marriott’s loyalty programs and Alibaba’s loyalty program, and support Marriott hotels globally with content, programs and promotions customized for the Chinese traveler.

In addition, travelers will be able to use Alibaba’s smartphone payment platform during their stays at Marriott-branded hotels. Hotels in select markets will accept Alipay, Alibaba's online payment service. China’s online travel sales market this year will be worth about $86.9 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“We are proud to join forces with Marriott International – combining our large-scale consumer base, leading-edge technology and consumer insights with their unparalleled hospitality expertise,” said Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group. “Together, we are elevating and redefining the travel experience for Chinese consumers to be more seamless and personalized as they embark on adventures to discover the world.”

Under the terms of the deal, Marriott will offer access to private concerts, family-focused experiences, and court-side seats at sporting and other events through its rewards programs. Eligible members from Alibaba’s loyalty program will benefit from personalized hospitality programs and Marriott’s customer loyalty program.

"By forming this partnership, we are pairing our hospitality expertise with Alibaba’s digital travel platform, retail expertise and digital payment platform, Alipay, and driving membership to our loyalty programs," stated Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson.

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Fast-growing discount grocer expands analytics capabilities

BY Marianne Wilson

Aldi has extended its partnership with Nielsen to gain more shopper and advertising effectiveness insight.

Nielsen and Aldi announced an expanded multi-year relationship for integrated analytics data around shopper panel, custom retail analytics and advertising effectiveness. Under the agreement, Nielsen will be Aldi's preferred data and analytics provider, covering the chains' nearly 1,700 stores in 35 states across the U.S.

Nielsen will provide Aldi with a combination of analytics, including consumer-sourced panel data, custom retail analytics and advertising effectiveness. Nielsen’s combined consumer panel and advertising effectiveness analytics, the only integrated data set of this capacity available to the industry, brings forth a deeper view of shopper panel data and the role that advertising plays within it, a critical strategy in navigating today’s evolving grocery retail landscape.

“We are continually creating a better grocery store for our customers,” said Scott Patton, VP of corporate buying at Aldi. “We selected Nielsen for its differentiation of consumer and retail data in the marketplace, so we can continue to focus on doing what we do best – save people money on their grocery bills.”

Aldi operates almost 1,700 U.S. stores in 35 states. The company has said it plans to have 2,500 locations in the United States within the next five years.

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