Friday, 01 September 2017 14:47

By Mark Mathews
www.nrf.com

As the “retail apocalypse” canard continues to grab the odd headline in the media, the data and the facts are consistently telling us quite a different story: a story of an industry in transition, but still growing. The most recent retail sales figures released by the Census Bureau were up a robust 4.2 percent year-on-year in July. Every month this year has seen a steady increase in sales over the same period last year.

Nonetheless, we keep hearing about record-level store closings and how this portends doom for the retail industry. But we’ve consistently argued that this data is drawn from a biased sample. IHL Group just published a report that offers a thorough and complete debunking of the main false premise supporting the retail apocalypse myth. Their data shows a net increase in store openings of over 4,000 in 2017. In fact, for each company closing a store, 2.7 companies are opening stores.

WHAT APOCALYPSE?
To dive deeper into IHL's new research, watch their recent webinar: Debunking the Retail Apocalypse.

Across the broad spectrum of retail sectors, IHL Group’s data shows that none are closing more stores than they are opening. Even in the supposedly beleaguered department store sector, just as many businesses are opening stores as are closing them. According to IHL’s data, 751 brands are increasing their store counts versus 278 that are reducing store counts. On a percentage basis, 42 percent are opening stores, 43 percent are holding steady and only 15 percent are showing a net decrease in stores. Some apocalypse we’re suffering through.

As we have consistently asserted, overall the retail industry is healthy. When you look at individual sectors, businesses or regions, there are clearly areas that are challenged. The fallacy occurs when one looks at those exceptions and extrapolates them to represent the norm. Every industry experiences turnover and change and companies are consistently having to adapt their business models to new realities.

Retail is no different. It is a dynamic, fast-paced, highly competitive industry that is going through a period of rapid change. Consumer behavior, abetted by technology, is forcing retailers to adjust to this change at a speed that is unprecedented. In this sort of environment, some businesses will struggle but others will adapt and exciting new businesses will spring up to take the place of those that can’t. What remains clear amidst all this noise is that the store is as relevant and important a part of the retail experience as it ever has been. The IHL data makes this case quite clearly — and the consumer is telling us the same thing. Almost 80 percent tell us they are visiting stores as frequently or more frequently than last year. Interestingly, this number goes up by 5 percent when you sample Millennials and Gen Z. Don’t bet your shirt on the death of retail, or you’ll be forced to shop for a new one.
Friday, 01 September 2017 14:28

According to a new report from global research and advisory firm IHL Group, U.S. retailers are opening 4,080 more stores in 2017 than they’re closing and plan to open an additional 5,500 next year. The report, “Debunking the Retail Apocalypse,” identified grocery retailers as among the three fastest-growing core retail segments, with 674 stores expected to open.

The other two fastest-growing core retail segments, the report found, were mass merchandisers such as off-price retailers and dollar stores, with 1,905 stores expected to open, and convenience stores, with 1,700 stores.

IHL’s research reviewed 1,800-plus retail chains with more than 50 U.S. stores in 10 retail vertical segments. The firm discovered that for every chain with a net closing of stores, 2.7 companies showed a net increase in store locations for 2017.

“The negative narrative that has been out there about the death of retail is patently false,” asserted Greg Buzek, president of Franklin, Tenn.-based IHL. “The so-called ‘retail apocalypse’ makes for a great headline, but it’s simply not true. Over 4,000 more stores are opening than closing among big chains, and when smaller retailers are included, the net gain is well over 10,000 new stores. As well, through the first seven months of the year, retail sales are up $121.6 billion.”

Other research has pointed to the overall decline of grocery stores, at least in their traditional form, in favor of niche concepts and ecommerce solutions. Additional findings from IHL’s report include:

  • The total net increase of stores for 2017 is 4,080, including retail and restaurants. Core retail segments will see a net gain of 1,326 stores, while table-service and fast-food restaurants will add a net of 2,754 locations. In total, chains are opening a net 14,239 stores and closing 10,123 stores.
  • 42 percent of retailers have a net increase in stores, only 15 percent have a net decrease, and 43 percent report no change.
  • Specialty apparel retailers are experiencing the largest number of closings, with a net loss of 3,137 stores. However, for every chain closing stores, 1.3 chains are opening new stores.
  • Just 16 chains account for 48.5 percent of total number of stores closing. Five of these chains – Radio Shack, Payless Shoesource, Rue21, Ascena Retail and Sears Holdings – represent 28.1 percent of the total store closures.

“Without question, retail is undergoing some fundamental changes,” added Buzek. “The days of ‘build it and they will come’ are over. However, retailers that are focusing on the customer experience, investing in better training of associates and integrating IT systems across channels will continue to succeed.” read more

Wednesday, 23 August 2017 11:33

By REX NUTTING
http://www.marketwatch.com

Retail goods are cheaper, but we’re spending the savings on expensive health car

The brick-and-mortar retail industry is in crisis. For many old-line retailers, sales and market share are plunging fast. The most obvious explanation for their distress is the rise of online shopping, but some analysts mistakenly point to another trend: “Shoppers are choosing experiences over stuff, and that’s bad news for retailers.”

Instead of purchasing a couch, we’re going to Paris! Or maybe buying avocado toast.

One of these hot takes in the media even came with a provocative (and completely erroneous) graphic claiming that experiences now account for 67% of spending, compared with just 3% for clothing.

The reality is more mundane: We are spending a smaller portion of our budget at the mall, but the money we’re saving is mostly going for the most expensive health care in the universe.

It’s probably true that many of us yearn for something more than a pile of possessions that will never love us back, but the cold, hard truth is that Americans are purchasing more things today than ever before — more vehicles, more clothing, more housing, more health care, more financial services, more food and more electronics. More of almost everything, including couches and trips to Paris.

If you’ve heard these stories about the shift away from material things and toward experiences, you might be shocked to learn that retail spending hit a record $1.4 trillion in the second quarter. Retail spending has increased in 30 of the past 33 quarters. We still love to buy stuff.

The problem for traditional retail isn’t that we’ve fallen out of love with filling up our lives and our houses with things. (It’s still true, as comedian George Carlin said, that the meaning of life is finding a place to keep your stuff.)

The problem for retailers is that prices are falling for many retail goods such as clothing, electronics, appliances, furniture, tools, luggage, toys and many other things. That is killing the bottom line for traditional retailers, who get less revenue per unit sale but still have to pay the fixed costs of rent and payroll.

For consumers, on the other hand, falling prices are a godsend, because we can buy even more stuff and still have some money left over to spend on other things.

It would be great if we really could afford to shift our spending from the boring things we need to the fun things we want, but in reality most of the money we are saving due to cheaper clothes and cheaper gasoline is going for goods and services that no one would call fun: hospital bills, financial services, rent, and prescription drugs.

$1 trillion a month
An incredible amount of money is spent on personal consumption — more than $1 trillion every month. A little less than half is spent on stuff at retail stores, and much of the rest is spent on housing, health care, financial services, education, communication and other services.

Over the past 20 years, there has been a revolution in our spending patterns. Since 1997, Americans have shifted a significant portion of their spending from physical things like autos, clothing and petroleum to services like health care, rent and internet access.

Twenty years ago, for instance, 5.4% of total personal consumption expenditures went for motor vehicles and parts, but today that accounts for just 3.6% of consumer spending. Clothing was 4.5% of our budget in 1997; today it’s 3%. We spent 6.6% of our budget on groceries in 1997, but only 5.3% today.

On the other hand, spending on health-care services was 14.5% of consumer spending in 1997 but has grown to 16.9% today. In addition, prescription drugs have gone from 1.5% of spending to 3.4%.

We are spending a bit more on foreign travel, entertainment and eating meals at restaurants compared with 1997, but these categories still represent a tiny fraction of our total spending.

It’s quite true that annual spending on the experience of foreign travel has risen by $104 billion since 1997, but spending on home furnishings like couches and washing machines has increased even more — by $110 billion. And spending on prescription drugs has risen by an incredible $374 billion.

At the margin, we are spending a little bit more on having fun than we did 20 years ago, but most of our money still goes for necessities, not experiences.

Friday, 18 August 2017 14:56

www.smallbiztrends.com

A new study (PDF) from Texas-based digital savings company RetailMeNot, Inc., finds almost half (47 percent) of small business retailers struggle to keep up with the latest trends in mobile marketing.

Small Business Retailers Struggling with Mobile Marketing
There is a continued increase in small retailers’ investment in mobile marketing strategies. But often the challenge for these retailers is to quickly adapt to changing consumer demand, reports RetailMeNot’s mobile marketing study titled “How Retailers Are Adapting to New and Evolving Mobile Marketing.”

“Part of the evolution of marketing includes a growing reliance on upcoming technology. Often these advancements are created and adopted by consumers so quickly, retailers often find themselves unable to keep up,” wrote RetailMeNot in a quote from its study.

About nine in 10 small business retailers said they will increase their investments in mobile (92 percent) or social (89 percent) advertising in 2017. However, one in 4 (25 percent) of these retailers said they do not have the ability to tie their mobile marketing efforts to in-store sales. This means they are not able to gauge the true success of their current mobile marketing tactics. They are also missing out on key opportunities to provide customized offers or push notifications to help complete the shopper’s journey.

Mobile Marketing Partnerships Helping Track In-store Sales
One way retailers (53 percent) are overcoming the challenge of tracking or tying their mobile marketing efforts to in-store sales is partnering with marketing companies that have expertise in this area. Partnerships with mobile marketing companies like RetailMeNot are also helping retailers provide mobile offers to customers through owned and partner apps.

“Marketers should not underestimate the influence mobile marketing has on purchases made in all channels — in-store, online and on mobile devices,” said Marissa Tarleton, chief marketing officer of RetailMeNot, Inc, in a release announcing the study. “Equally as important is the ability to attribute sales back to mobile marketing efforts,” Tarleton added.

RetailMeNot’s study was conducted by global insights and strategy consultancy Kelton Global via email invitation and an online survey between April 14 and April 20, 2017. read more

by David William
www.smallbiztrends.com

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