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
A new survey conducted for NRF shows small retailers have nearly caught up with large merchants in making the switch to chip-and-signature credit cards — even though virtually half say the cards would be more secure if easy-to-forge signatures were replaced with a secret personal identification number.
The survey found that 60 percent of small bricks-and-mortar retailers had installed chip card readers by this spring and another 10 percent expected to have done so by July, bringing the total so far to 70 percent. The number is expected to reach 81 percent by the end of the year. (Online retailers aren’t affected because the chip doesn’t work unless the card is physically present.)
That compares with 86 percent of mid-size and large retailers surveyed last year who said they would have chip readers in place by the end of 2016, with 99 percent planning to do so by the end of this year.
With each chip reader averaging $2,000 when installation and other costs are factored in, small retailers have generally lagged behind larger retail companies with deeper pockets in the changeover from traditional magnetic stripe cards.
Small retailers have made the switch despite concerns the new cards don’t provide all the security they are capable of: Of the 750 surveyed for NRF by research firm GfK, 49 percent said their businesses would be more secure if credit cards required a PIN, which is standard in most parts of the world where chip cards are used. Only 16 percent disagreed, with the remainder neutral.
Nonetheless, 63 percent said their businesses could not afford to risk increased liability for fraudulent transactions, which retailers have faced since a change in card industry rules took effect in October 2015. In the past, banks paid fraud costs when a card turned out to be counterfeit; the cost has now been shifted to retailers if the card has a chip but the retailer doesn’t have a chip reader.
Not all affected small retailers are making the move: The survey found 19 percent have no plans to adopt chip cards, with 55 percent of them saying it is because their businesses are not at high risk for credit card fraud.
The survey results are not surprising. NRF has said for years that chip-and-signature cards are far less secure than chip-and-PIN. The chip makes it more difficult to create a counterfeit card, but counterfeits are still possible and the chip does nothing to prevent lost or stolen cards from being used. As we’ve often said, a chip without a PIN is like locking the front door but leaving the back door wide open. A PIN alone could stop most credit card fraud without the need for a chip — or the expensive new equipment needed to read a chip.
Virtually all U.S. banks have refused to include PINs on their credit cards, choosing to keep transactions on lucrative signature processing networks run by Visa and Mastercard rather than open them up to the dozen or more competing networks that can process PIN transactions.
Beyond the PIN issue, chip cards do nothing to keep card data from being stolen from computer systems. The chip transmits an encrypted code that confirms that the card is not counterfeit, but the actual account number and other card data are still transmitted in the clear.
Despite those shortcomings, the change in fraud liability rules effectively coerces many retailers into adopting chip cards: A coffee shop can afford to lose the cost of a doughnut if a customer uses a counterfeit card, but a jeweler selling rings that cost thousands of dollars can’t take the chance.
Overall, U.S. businesses are being forced to spend $30 billion to switch to chip cards that fall far short of the advances in security that are needed. That’s money that could be better spent on encryption, tokenization and other technologies that actually keep card data from being stolen in the first place. If the card data can be made secure, the physical cards become much less of an issue.
Retailers have been demanding truly secure credit cards for years. It’s time for banks to deliver. read moreBy Mallory Duncan
The retail world will change more in the next twenty years than in all of the history of modern day retailing. This is driven by the seismic shift in consumers’ shopping habits: they’re filling smaller baskets during each trip to the store; different categories drive consumers to different types of stores; and the ability to shop online for groceries is more prevalent than ever before, with the advent of services like Amazon Fresh and retailers boosting their digital fulfillment efforts.
On the retail front, channels are converging. What was once your traditional drug store may now be viewed as a convenience destination. Up against the likes of Blue Apron and Amazon’s filing for a meal kit patent, traditional supermarkets are crafting their own ways to compete in the meal kit game. Big box mass merchandisers are now competing with discount and dollar stores.
As the U.S. grocery industry continues to navigate the complexities of emerging channels like discount grocery retailers, it’s worth noting how these dynamics played out in Europe and assess if their success across the pond is a precursor to what we might see stateside. Across the pond, nearly three-fourths of market share was consolidated into the region’s top four retailers. And what’s more, over the last eight years, the top four’s share eroded from 73% to 67%, while the newer discount retailers that encroached on the market nearly doubled their share.
However, the European market where the likes of Aldi and Lidl dominated and reigned success is a very different world than the U.S., which is facing a different set of challenges.
Discount grocery retailers are typically smaller format than traditional supermarkets, though their U.S. counterparts are twice the size of their European stores which estimate 10,000 square feet. Still smaller than traditional stores, that means a limited assortment of products on the shelves. Despite this limited shelf space, discount grocery retail stores are growing. Between 2011 and 2016, store counts increased 17.6% across the U.S. Though not apples to apples, the growth of discount retailers in Europe could serve as a precursor to what we might see in the U.S. in the near future. Some may be wondering whether this channel could potentially rise to capture a significant percentage of the U.S. grocery marketplace, putting pressure on other retail channels on how to compete.
The growing presence of discount grocery retailers is sure to create (or add onto) the domino effect that is causing traditional grocery retailers to rethink their growth strategies to remain relevant. As the industry continues to navigate these effects, there are five key questions that retailers should be asking themselves today to prepare for tomorrow:
Retail Channel Dynamics: Where Are Consumers Shopping?
Gone are the days when consumers shopped for all of their groceries at their neighborhood supermarket. Today’s on-the-go consumer can now pick up deli prepared meals at the drugstore or purchase all natural beverages and snacks at convenience stores, something that was once limited to niche natural specialty stores.
According to Nielsen Homescan panel data, grocery shopping trips grew the most at discount grocery retailers (2.9%) compared to other brick and mortar channels in the last year. However, basket sizes at discounters slightly declined 0.3%.
This decline in spend per trip could be the result of many factors, one of which is consumers’ on-the-go lifestyles and the growth of sprawling urban areas where households may not have as much physical space to store packaged items. Retailers must focus on what drives consumption—including product variety, package sizes and store formats—in order to remain competitive.
Pricing Pressures: Combating Price with Value-Adds
Downward pricing pressures are lowering the growth ceilings for all retailers, driven in part by the looming threat of discount grocery and online retailers. That being said, value is about more than just the lowest price. According to a Nielsen 2016 retail growth strategies study, consumers rate high-quality produce (57%), convenient location (56%) and product availability (54%) as more influential in store-selection decisions than the lowest price.
Consumers are looking for good deals regardless of their economic circumstances. And indeed, for many consumers, deal seeking is the thrill of the chase. Sixty-eight percent of Americans say they enjoy taking the time to find bargains, and discount grocery retailers have hit the nail on the head to provide the bargains they are seeking at price points that meet their wallets.
Investing in Store Brands: Private Label Driving Highest Growth in Discount
For many retailers, but particularly deep discount retailers, store brands (or private label) play a strategic role for winning over shoppers from other channels. Compared to other major retail channels, discount grocery retailers have more than twice the share of store brand dollars (51%), compared to only 15% store-brand dollar share in mass merchandise and 20% in supercenters. read more
Chris Morley, CONTRIBUTOR
WWhat retail apocalypse? That's what some of America's top commercial real estate CEOs are asking. In fact, they remain some of the retail industry's biggest cheerleaders.
While much of Wall Street is skeptical about retail's future — as evidenced by the less-than-stellar performance of the S&P 500 Retail ETF (XRT), compared to the broader market — there are still some believers around.
A slew of retail real estate investment trusts, or REITs, has reported quarterly earnings in recent days. The list includes Simon Property Group, General Growth Properties, Taubman and Macerich, shopping center landlord Kimco, and Sears spinoff Seritage Growth Properties.
Their results have offered a checkup on the health of retail's real estate. And, for the most part, much of these companies' results were positive.
"For the players that own the best assets, things are pretty good," said Floris van Dijkum, an analyst with Boenning & Scattergood. Other retail REITs Acadia Realty, Federal Realty and Regency Centers, which notably only owns grocery-anchored properties, are also reported "decent" results, he said.
"Continued results [from the retail REITs], like what we've just seen, will eventually get people to wake up," he told CNBC. "You have to be somewhat patient."
Many REIT CEOs are saying they've been patient for long enough. They are ready for the narrative to change.
'It will get better'
"Obviously, retail is under more pressure than it has been in the past," Simon CEO David Simon said on a conference call last week. "I do think that our environment is going to get better."
Notably, Simon raised its full-year earnings forecast to $6.20 to $6.28 per diluted share, up 4 cents from a prior estimate the REIT had issued in April. The REIT's stock rallied on the news, though shares of Simon have fallen more than 25 percent over the past 12 months.
Dijkum said Simon's earnings this quarter were "best in class."
"Despite high short interest in the mall sector," this is a company that isn't going to give in to pressure, Dijkum said.
"I think the retail community has been overly negative about the mall product," CEO Simon said on the earnings call. "I don't know why they do it, but we're just going to get up off the mat [and] keep doing what we do. ... This isn't sugar coating."
The retail REIT said that although there are more retail bankruptcies spilling out this year, Simon isn't oblivious to the changes taking place within the industry. Simon is taking steps like reducing exposure to apparel brands and increasing allocation to food services and lifestyle brands to reduce its risk.
Another bonus for the company, e-retailers looking to go physical also appear to be flocking to Simon.
Companies like UNTUCKit, Warby Parker, Bonobos, Fabletics and thredUP, which all got their start online, are now signing deals with Simon, among other REITs.
"They have all realized that having a well-positioned fleet of stores is certainly necessary and optimal for them to grow their business," Simon COO Richard Sokolov said on last week's earnings conference call. "It's going to be a process."
"There is a limit to attracting eyeballs online that [e-retailers] can't get in the physical world," CEO Simon added.
The company is employing other strategies to work with retailers, like offering shorter leases to tenants who are hesitant to lock in a space long term. "It makes sense to do short-term deals if you feel the environment is going to get better," Sokolov said. Retailers looking to test a format in a physical pop-up shop is not a new strategy, but it's one that's just recently gaining even more attention and popularity within the sector. read more
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.
With credit-card skimming thieves eluding law enforcement, state lawmakers are targeting the devices themselves.
Two bills before the Florida Legislature this session, SB 766 and HB 343, would make it a third-degree felony to possess or sell credit-card skimming devices in Florida.
“These devices are designed to specifically collect and steal consumer data,” said the sponsor of the Senate bill, state Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-Miami. “There is no other place in the market where you need a device like this.”
Rodriguez said Thursday much of the work behind the legislation was focused on tightening the definition of the skimmer itself so it would not impede the needs of retailers and anyone else involved in credit-card transactions.
“There are two parts to this legislation,” he said. “Part of it is to precisely and better define what is legal and what is illegal. The other part is criminalizing the sale of and use. There is no legitimate need for these skimming devices.”
He added that cracking down on the installing and use of the skimmers to steal credit-card information from gasoline pump machines and ATMs, which is illegal, is difficult because police have to catch the thieves in the act.
By making the possession and sale of the devices illegal, he said police would have a more effective tool. Both the Senate and House versions have one more committee hurdles to clear, perhaps as soon as next week, before they can make it to floor votes in each chamber.
The 2017 Florida legislative session marks the second year in a row that lawmakers have sought legislation to attack credit-card skimming.
Just this past spring, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill designed to protect consumers from skimmers at gas station pumps.
That legislation, sponsored by State Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, required gas stations to have security devices on pumps to combat skimmers and it toughened penalties for credit-card fraud.
It was also supported by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose agency has largely led the effort to crack down on skimmers.
James Miller of the Florida Retail Federation and the Florida Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association said the organizations “fully support any legislation that cracks down on gas-pump skimming devices, punishes those caught using them, and protects Floridians and visitors.”
Miller said card skimming is a nationwide problem, but Florida, with the third-largest population and more than 100 million tourists, and more than 10,000 convenience stores statewide, presents significantly more opportunities for skimming devices to be used.
He said the organization seeks other ways to combat skimming fraud. This includes training sessions for convenience store owners and their staff year round throughout the state to help them identify potential scams, and arm their employees with knowledge and steps they can take to protect their store, their merchandise and their customers.
They also regularly communicate with local, state and federal law enforcement “on tips and identifying new technology or new ways that thieves are using skimmers,” he added.
Jeff Lenard, the vice president for Strategic Industry Initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores in Alexandria, Va., said the organization focuses on federal issues so it has not specifically followed the new Florida legislation.
However, he pointed out skimming tends to a be a problem because criminal groups come to an area and “work it” until they move on to another location. Florida, he said, is one of the areas that has more problems, perhaps because there is more of a transient population and newer neighborhoods.
How to avoid falling victim to a skimmer, and what to do if you do
If you think your credit card number might have been stolen or otherwise compromised, report it to your credit card company.
If you believe you might have found a skimmer, contact the gas station manager, local law enforcement or the department’s consumer protection and information hotline at 800-435-7352.
mypalmbeachpost | Antonio Fins and Susan Salisbury
Organized retail crime (ORC)—defined as professional shoplifting by organized crime rings—is growing, with 83% of 59 merchants surveyed reporting an increase in the past year, according the National Retail Federation’s “12th annual ORC study,” conducted July 20-Aug. 19, 2016.
Sean Sportun, ICPS manager, security & loss prevention for Mac’s Convenience Stores in Canada, noted ORC is an evolving issue for the c-store industry.
While ORC usually targets big box chains with high volume items “what most fail to realize is the c-store/gas industry are the initial target for these groups when it comes to fraud payment cards and robberies,” Sportun said. “C-store retailers must ensure they have a training program in place and that it is current—this will enable employees to combat these crimes and remain safe if they encounter an incident.”
Mac’s is renowned for fighting crime, from inviting communities to take ownership of neighborhood convenience stores by participating in painting a store mural to posting images of thieves to Mac’s Crime Stoppers social media pages, so members of the community can identify them for a reward.
“Mac’s is now being studied by Harvard University on the crime prevention program’s effectiveness in reducing incidents of crime,” Sportun said. The Harvard Business Study should be available this summer.
Mac’s is also using a Tobacco Tracker program to monitor stolen tobacco cartons—a “huge success,” both in the recovery of assets and in the apprehensions of suspects. Security expert Chris McGoey, president of McGoey Security Consulting, said while ORC is an age-old issue, the label is often overused, especially in relation to convenience stores.
“What’s happening (at c-stores) is plain old shoplifting. It’s the same old story: if you have one person on duty and that person is overworked, they’re not going to be able to pay attention to potential shoplifters,” he said.
McGoey said he sees theft overall trending upward. There are more items today, more inventory issues to contend with and products are more expensive—which means theft dollar totals are higher—all contributing factors.
C-stores must also contend with employee theft. The “28th Annual Retail Theft Survey” conducted June 2016 by loss prevention consulting firm Jack L. Hayes International, found one out of every 38 employees was apprehended for theft from their employer in 2015. The survey was based on approximately 3 million employees.
“The convenience industry is hit particularly hard with employee theft because of the nature of a c-store. They’re designed to be operated by one person often times without supervision,” McGoey said.
Mac’s is using technology to help matters.
“The loss prevention department implemented a variety of preventative measures to identify this type of crime, but our most effective initiative has been the introduction of our 24/7 monitoring room, which has the ability to remote access into stores through the DVR system,” Sportun said.
While ongoing advancements in video surveillance ability and quality continue to improve, McGoey warned some retailers invest too much capital in technology and then fail to use it, thinking just having the technology is a deterrent. McGoey said sticking to the basics of counting inventory, implementing cash controls, hiring and training well and monitoring customers are crucial in preventing theft. (read more)
Within 10 years, online food shopping will reach maturity
Within a decade, in the current climate of technology adoption and evolution, consumer spend on online grocery shopping could reach $100 billion, or the equivalent of 3,900 grocery stores based on store volume.
That’s the conclusion of new research being released by the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen, which offered a preview of their “Digitally Engaged Food Shopper” analysis Saturday at the FMI Midwinter Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The findings were discussed by a panel that included Dave Bornmann, SVP of business development at Publix Super Markets; Benno Dorer, chairman and CEO of the Clorox Co.; Chris Morley, president of Nielsen USA; and Tom Furphy, CEO of Replenium. The discussion was moderated by Thom Blischok, chairman and CEO of The Dialogic Group.
The group stressed a need for greater collaboration between retailers and CPG suppliers, who need to operate “like one integrated company,” declared Mark Baum, FMI chief collaboration officer and discussion panelist. Success will come to those who collaborate effectively, embrace automation, understand consumers better and use the new research as a call to action, panel members said.
The introductory set of insights from this joint, multi-year initiative offer a comprehensive look into the behaviors, motivations and expectations of the digitally engaged food shopper. This first perspective offers recommendations on how food marketers and manufacturers should be preparing their strategies and managing the organizational change that will be required to engage those shoppers.
“While we are more connected than ever to influence what shoppers buy, the window to influence those moments is narrowing,” Baum said. “FMI and its members will need to seize the opportunity to harness new skills and collaborate more seamlessly than ever before to effectively reach these digitally savvy food shoppers. We’re building the tools to help our members assess where they are in their connected commerce strategies.”
Initial findings from this study show that within the next decade, online food shopping will reach maturation in the U.S., far faster than other industries that have come online before. Research also revealed that the center store is likely to shift online faster than other departments, suggesting a fundamental evaluation of the role the store plays in digital food shopping.
“The grocery business truly is at a digital tipping point, where every aspect of the shopper’s journey will soon be influenced by digital, and increasingly enabled by digital platforms,” Morley said. “The need for retailers and manufacturers to know the differences around how consumers shop online versus in-store is greater than ever before. Analytics will be key for retailers and manufacturers to understand the digitally engaged food shopper on a deeper level. Beyond unified insights that connect the dots across consumer interaction and platforms, the winning strategy will turn metrics into action steps towards effective digital engagement.” read more
By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ