Good news for retail came out of the Census Bureau yesterday. July turned out to be not just better than expected but also the month with the biggest rebound in retail sales all year, rising 0.6% for the month and 4.2% since July 2016. What’s more, revised data for May and June show a brighter picture than preliminary estimates had indicated, eliminating what had appeared to be a decline in retail sales.
"Finally, retail sales showed some life," Robert Frick, a corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, was quoted as saying yesterday.
So should the commercial real estate industry feel cheered by the news? Well, yes and no.
For those who have a stake in retail properties, there is still reason for caution.
A breakdown of the retail data shows that the July uptick is driven largely by motor vehicle sales (up 1.2%) and e-commerce (up 1.3% for the month – quite possibly boosted by Amazon Prime Day, which took place July 11 – and up 11.5% from a year earlier). Although the success of e-commerce can benefit players in the industrial segment of the commercial real estate industry, given the significance of warehouses and distribution centers for e-tailers, it may not be such comforting news for those with a stake in traditional retail properties.
Somewhat obscured by the big picture, some brick-and-mortar categories did not do as well as overall retail sales might indicate. Sales at electronics and appliance stores, for instance, were down 0.5% from June to July and 0.9% from July 2016.
Other categories showed mixed findings, such as department stores, which were, a bit surprisingly, up 1% for the month (but down 1.3% for the year). Similarly, sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores were up 0.3% for the month but down 4.2% for the year. (read more)
By: Ely Razin
The retail apocalypse has been well documented. Major chains have had to close stores, lay people off and even go out of businesses entirely. And small retail businesses may have it even harder.
But retail businesses aren’t completely a lost causes. There are ways to make your retail business stand out and potentially save it from extinction, if you’re willing to rethink the customer experience and get a little innovative.
Brian Solis gives an overview of the top trends that retail businesses can use to survive and thrive in today’s environment. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main points.
1. Use human perspective to shape your future. Basically, you can consider trends and technology all you want. But if you want the shopping experience at your business to appeal to your customers, you need to relate to them on a human level and put yourself in their shoes. If you can come up with some common sense changes, even if those changes integrate new technology and trends, you can make the experience better for actual customers.
2. Cater to on-demand consumers. Today’s consumers want their purchases immediately and in the most convenient way possible. So retail outlets need to discover ways to get their products to customers with the fewest barriers possible.
3. Compete for customer experience. This doesn’t just mean customer service. It means the end-to-end experience that the customer has when dealing with your business. So you need to come up with ways to stand out and make the entire process as seamless as possible.
4. Become payments agnostic. Mobile payments and other high tech options have recently gained popularity with some consumers. If you can create an environment where all forms of payment are accepted, you can eliminate some potential roadblocks for customers.
5. Understand social commerce. Social commerce is mainly centered around connecting social media and shopping. And retail stores can utilize this idea to increase business by encouraging shared experiences and reviews online.
6. Invest in the trust economy. The trust economy is all about creating transparency and trust between your business and its customers. You can create genuine interactions with customers online and otherwise through content and more. And you can even utilize user generated content and reviews or referrals from other customers to create more trust.
7. Balance webrooming and showrooming. When customers come into your store to look at products, but then look for the same products cheaper online, it’s called showrooming. But when customers research products online and then go find that product in a store so they can get it right away, it’s called webrooming. Both concepts are popular with different shoppers. So your business should be prepared for customers who want to compare information or prices from both online and retail sources.
8. Blur the lines between digital and brick and mortar shopping. Because of the ways customers interact with online businesses and content, it’s important for retail stores to utilize new technology to blur the lines between retail and online shopping to make the experience as seamless as possible. This can also provide more options for customers who simply have different shopping preferences.
9. Cater to mobile customers. Many customers are turning to their mobile phones first when shopping. And some are only using their mobile devices. But technology like beacons can help you gather data and more effectively communicate with those mobile customers to create a more seamless experience for them.
10. Discover new competition and possibilities. Because of the constantly changing technology and trends out there, retail businesses need to constantly be on the look out for new possibilities and new forms of competition. There might be a new disruptive technology tool out there that competitors are using to create a better experience. And your business needs to be open to solving that problem in a new way.
11. Reimagine your space. Instead of simply adding in new technology or methods to your existing model, it might be a better route to reimagine the journey as a whole. Start from scratch and think about how to create the best customer journey from start to finish.
Are sales slowing down? Have you had a rough month, quarter or year? While a lot of people are claiming that brick and mortar is a dying business model that's quickly being replaced by e-commerce, this simply isn't true. Your lack of sales has less to do with larger industry trends than it has to do with store-specific issues. Correct these issues and you should be just fine.
1. Encourage impulse buys
We've all walked into a store looking for one specific item only to leave with three or four things that we didn't really need. In most cases, this behavior is rooted in impulse shopping.
"The simplest explanation is that some people just derive an enormous amount of pleasure from acquiring something new," consumer behavior psychologist Philip Graves says. "The act of buying is an act of empowerment that may be felt all too rarely in other aspects of life."
As a retailer, you can significantly increase your sales by encouraging impulse buys. The easiest way to do this is by lining up cheap, sensory items in the checkout queue. While customers are waiting, they'll naturally toss things in their shopping carts.
2. Push add-ons
Once you have a customer in the ready state of mind to purchase one product, it's much easier to encourage them to purchase more. One strategy is to have your salespeople push add-ons. These add-ons can come in the form of a discount or special sale, or they can be full-price add-ons if your salespeople are really persuasive.
For example, let's say you're selling a customer a digital camera. In addition to the camera, you could push things like camera cases, memory cards, batteries and extra lenses. Suddenly, instead of just selling a camera for $199, you're selling three or four items for $300.
3. Get people in the door
Your sales numbers are directly correlated to the level of foot traffic inside your store. It's an elementary concept, but sometimes basic logic goes out the door when you're struggling to meet sales goals. If you want to increase sales, get more people in the door.
You can use any number of strategies to get people inside, but it all goes back to grabbing your customers' attention. Try designing clever window displays, placing inventory outside, or having a personable salesperson stand outside and welcome people in. Whatever you can do to get people inside will increase your chances of driving up sales.
4. Offer future-use coupons
If you're looking for cheap ways to drive sales, you probably aren't keen on the idea of using a lot of coupons. However, there is one type of coupon – known as a future-use coupon – that has a low cost and a high return.
As the name suggests, future-use coupons are coupons you give to customers at the time of purchase that are valid for future purchases. The great thing about these coupons is that only a small percentage of people will ever redeem them. So while you may get 15 people to make a purchase because of the coupon offer, only four or five will ever take advantage of the offer at a later date. This allows you to maximize their value.
5. Let customers try
The final tip is to let customers try products. In-store demonstrations, trials and tastings are highly effective methods for driving impulse buys. Sensory exposure goes a long way toward moving customers to action. People see, hear, touch, taste or smell something that they otherwise never would have and feel like they have to purchase the item. READ MORE
Projections are positive for both packaged and alcoholic beverages.
While convenience stores are evolving in terms of the products and services they offer consumers, they remain a primary destination for those who want to make a quick beverage purchase.
Seven in 10 retailers (70.6 percent) expect their packaged beverage sales to increase in 2017, and only 2.9 percent expect sales to decrease. The projected net change is 3.3 percent, according to the findings of the 15th annual Convenience Store News Forecast Study.
The CSNews Forecast Study provides dollar and unit volume projections in key c-store product categories based on data from various sources, including Nielsen for category sales history; TDLinx for store counts; and government sources for motor fuel volume and pricing data. The data is then run through a sophisticated projection model and presented in summary form. Maureen Maguire, founder and CEO of New York-based ThinkResearch, oversees the Forecast Study process.
C-store operators are right to be optimistic. According to the CSNews Forecast Study numbers, dollar sales of packaged beverages — which includes carbonated soft drinks, bottled water, sports and energy drinks — will increase 5.2 percent across the total industry. On a per-store basis, dollar sales are expected to increase 4.5 percent, and unit volume is expected to increase 4.1 percent. All of these figures are above the estimated results for 2016.
Although they still take up the most space inside convenience store cold vaults, carbonated soft drinks are likely to see another year of status-quo growth in 2017, with an expected rise of 0.9 percent in dollar sales per store and 1.3 percent in unit volume per store.
Perhaps reflecting consumers' growing interest in healthy eating and drinking habits, or even concern over the safety of tap water following national coverage of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., bottled water will see more growth in dollar sales per store (up 4.4 percent) and unit volume per store (up 2.3 percent), although this marks a slowing compared to 2016.
As for alcoholic beverages, price increases are likely to boost beer dollar sales in 2017, which are expected to rise 1.4 percent per store and 2.1 percent for the total industry. Unit volume is forecasted to be flat. C-store operators believe the biggest impact on beer will come from states implementing new laws regarding beer sales, such as Pennsylvania did in 2016.
The continued popularity of craft beer is a likely contributor to higher prices. Dollar sales of microbrews are expected to increase 12.6 percent while unit volume increases 11.1 percent, both on a per-store basis. This marks another year of slowing growth for the segment, but retailers note it remains "hot," with some reducing their stock of domestic brews in favor of craft. One retailer stressed the importance of "stay[ing] relevant with evolving brands in craft."