TECHNOLOGY

Consumer confidence slips in May

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Wary about business conditions and jobs, consumer confidence dipped a bit further in May. But consumers still remain optimistic on the whole about the economy.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 117.9 in May, from a revised 119.4 in April. The index hit 124.9 in March, its highest mark in 16 years.

"Consumer confidence decreased slightly in May, following a moderate decline in April," said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "However, consumers' assessment of present-day conditions held steady, suggesting little change in overall economic conditions,” Franco added. “Looking ahead, consumers were somewhat less upbeat than in April, but overall remain optimistic that the economy will continue expanding into the summer months."

While the Expectations Index dropped to 102.6 in May from 105.4 last month, the Present Situation Index increased marginally to 140.7 from 140.3. This sentiment also impacted consumers' appraisal of current conditions. Those saying business conditions are "good" edged down to 29.4% from 30.8% last month, but those saying business conditions are "bad" was unchanged at 13.7%.

Consumers’ assessment of the labor market still remains wary. Those stating jobs are "plentiful" declined marginally to 29.9% from 30.3%, however, those claiming jobs are "hard to get" decreased to 18.2% from 19.4% in April.

Consumers remain equally cautious about short-term improvements. Specifically, the percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 21.3% from 25.1%. On a more optimistic note, however, those expecting business conditions to worsen declined marginally to 10.1% from 10.4% last month.

Consumers also remain torn on labor market expectations. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead declined to 18.6% from 21.9% last month, but those anticipating fewer jobs decreased to 12.0% from 13.8% in April.

On an optimistic note however, the percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to increase edged up to 19.2% from 18.7%. However, the proportion expecting a decrease also rose to 8.7% from 7.6% in April.

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TECHNOLOGY

Online home furnishings retailer teams up with hit cable series

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Wayfair is making it easy for customers to emulate decor trends from one of cable television's most popular series.

Wayfair is collaborating with HGTV home improvement and house flipping series “Brother vs. Brother.” The popular show features siblings Jonathan and Drew Scott competing to see who can make the biggest profit when flipping renovated properties. The Wayfair-HGTV partnership will enable viewers to shop the looks featured on the show directly on Wayfair.

This is the fourth year that Wayfair is offering the shopping program in the United States. However, this is the first time that viewers in Canada can participate in the program, according to the retailer.

The six-episode competition series will showcase the Scott brothers renovating and reselling homes along the Gulf Coast of Texas. The properties will be outfitted with furniture and coastal decor from Wayfair’s vast selection of more than 8 million products. Viewers can shop their favorite looks from the series through daily sales events on Wayfair.com in the United States and Wayfair.ca in Canada.

“HGTV is a valued partner of Wayfair and we’re excited to launch another integration that brings accessible decorating solutions to everyone,” said Nancy Go, VP of brand marketing, Wayfair. “This fun and competitive series will not only inspire viewers, but it will show them how they can achieve the looks they see on TV from the comfort of their home, by shopping Wayfair.”

Brother vs. Brother will premiere in the U.S. on Wednesday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET on HGTV, and in Canada on Monday, June 5, at 9 p.m. ET. Wayfair’s “Brother vs. Brother” daily sales event will run through July 13 on its U.S. site, and through July 18 on its Canadian domain.

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Shopping must-haves for Generations Y and Z are…

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

New attitudes, behaviors and shopping preferences among Generation Z and Millennials are keeping retailers on their toes.

Emerging in-store technologies and positive social media feedback are top priorities among both Generation Z and Millennial consumers. This is according to retail advisory firm HRC Retail Advisory (HRC), which surveyed 1,350 participants in North America about their shopping experiences.

More than 90% of Generation Z said that a strong Wi-Fi signal is important to them and their overall shopping experience — a prerequisite to take advantage of emerging solutions, such as Magic Mirrors, when shopping. In fact, 66% of Millennials said they would be somewhat likely to use the technology.

However, Generation Z and younger Millennials were found to embrace emerging technologies, particularly if they enhanced a connection with their social network or streamlined the shopping experience. For example, they are partial to retail apps, especially for in-store payments. Specifically, 68% of Millennials, and 64% of Generation Z stated that they would likely use a retailer’s app to make an in-store payment. Meanwhile, 78% of Millennials favor apps over traditional payment methods.

These generations are also leveraging social media when making purchase decisions. Nearly 60% of respondents among both generations use Facebook daily, with Millennials at 72% usage. YouTube ranks second among both demographics, with over 55% using the platform daily.

More than half of respondents (both generations) said they use social media to solicit opinions while shopping, and more than 40% said they have made a decision based on feedback from their network. Additionally, 25% of Millennials said they have returned items based on feedback from social media sites, and Generation Z’s return rate is as high as 62%, the study reported.

These generations are also shopping the beauty category in a whole new way. Keeping an eye on new beauty trends, both generations look to Amazon and Discount Stores (i.e. Walmart, Target) to shop for products over traditional beauty stores (i.e. Sephora, department stores). When asked where Gen Z has purchased beauty products in the last six months, 55% said discount stores and 35% said Amazon. For Millennials, 49% shop discount stores, and 45% use Amazon.

Beauty shopping is also very social, at least among Generation Z which cites friends and YouTube Beauty Gurus as their primary influences (54%). While Millennials are primarily influenced by the store experience (34%), this is less important to Generation Z (11%).

“Millennial and Generation Z’s use of technology in-store, their need to stay connected to friends via social media while they shop, and how they’re shopping beauty trends is changing consumer spending patterns,” said Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory. “While the latter generation was born with a smartphone in hand, it doesn't keep them from shopping – and even preferring to shop – in brick-and-mortar stores, as long as they have access to their ever-important social network.”

Efros added, “Generation Z in not only powerful on their own, but they are the ones dragging their Millennial parents (who prefer to shop online), back into the mall as well. Understanding these consumer segments and how they apply to a retailer’s business will be essential, as both of these generations will be crucial to retail strategies going forward.”

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