Christmas Shopping, Shopper Marketing, Holiday 2011

Retailers see 11th-hour surge in holiday sales

It may not be over yet, but retailers are breathing a sigh of relief and celebrating a successful holiday season, thanks to a last-minute surge in sales.

Christmas Shopping, Shopper Marketing, Holiday 2011

Online sales during the final week before Christmas hit $2.8 billion, up 16% from last year, according to ComScore, while mall shoppers spent about $44 billion in the week ending Dec. 24, a 14.8% increase over the same week in 2010, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks foot traffic at malls and stores.

Overall, retail sales rose 4.5% year-over-year, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs Retail Chain Store Sales Index.

The reports are welcome news to retailers, which saw holiday sales bottom out in early December after notching new records for Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday.

After the initial rush for doorbuster deals and other discounts, persistently high unemployment, the weak housing market, Europe’s debt crisis and uncertainty about the economy weighed on shoppers, especially in the lower income brackets.

Holiday sales only picked up again right before Christmas, the ICSC report said — helped in part by mild weather and an extra shopping day on Saturday, when many stores extended hours.

“Holiday shopping went down to the wire as consumers took advantage of the full shopping week ahead of Christmas Day, which fell on a Sunday this year,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist.

Overall shopping visits increased by 6.5% in the week ended Monday, Dec. 26, according to a separate report from the NPD Group Tuesday.

In addition, shoppers shelled out more during each trip to the mall. The average amount spent per visit was up 4.7% from the prior week, the largest week over week increase since the week of Nov. 28, which included Black Friday, NPD said.

[via CNN]

Shopper Marketing, Retail Therapy, Brand Loyalty

Brands Challenged To Create Persona To Keep Customers

Shopper Marketing, Retail Therapy, Brand Loyalty

Just as marketers decide to push more of their budget from direct response and into brand campaigns, it could become more difficult to sway consumers in 2012 through loyalty. Consumers seemed easily influenced this year by advertised specials and daily deal coupons, but research suggests the online ad industry may need to rethink strategies and get to work on new technologies.

Target, for example, created a persona of stocking chic, yet inexpensive products, according to Stacy DeBroff, CEO and founder of Mom Central Consulting. “Michael Graves could create a teapot, but it’s only $11,” she said. “They designed coolness into better prices. That’s a persona.”

When it comes to generating awareness, think about the variety of available ad media, although some don’t necessarily convert to purchases, DeBroff said. Mobile applications on the smartphone that most consumers keep close to them can create brand loyalty through continual use. Those that offer discounts on goods and services provide incentives to keep consumers using tham.

The apps also can help brands create that persona DeBroff recommends — a persona similar to the one Microsoft wants to create for its search engine Bing. DeBroff points to a “successful” Bing campaign that ran about six months ago to get consumers to set Microsoft’s engines as their default for search. The research firm comScore reports that Microsoft’s Bing gained a little ground against competitors in November, and now holds about 15% market share, rising .2% sequentially.

The online recommendation culture continues to gain importance, too.

The conversion to a purchase often happens through first-person recommendations, and frequency — not the click of an ad, she said. People are open to recommendations through discounts, coupons and word of mouth.

Only 50% of moms recently surveyed by Mom Central Consulting consider themselves brand loyalists. About 66% of moms are willing to reach for the generic brand — especially when it comes to finding that both products have similar ingredients.

Moms have been forgoing brands they have added to their shopping carts for years, with 89% reporting they are open to new products. Plus, 78% of moms will switch brands when offered a coupon with a significant discount. And 68% of moms will pay attention to the product when offered a sample; 65% said they trust others through online recommendations to try new products.

Only 3% of moms admit that targeted ads on their social networks strongly motivate them to make a purchase.


Barney's Lady Gaga, Retail Localization

Barneys launches Micros-Retail mobile POS

Westboro, Mass. — Micros-Retail, a division of Micros Systems, announced that Barneys has launched the Micros-Retail miStore mobile point-of-sale solution in Barneys’ flagship New York store, starting this holiday season. The retailer is a long-time customer of Micros-Retail for point of sale, loss prevention and order management solutions.

Barney's Lady Gaga, Retail Localization

This holiday season, Barneys created a multi-faceted Gaga’s Workshop holiday window display that includes a dedicated Lady Gaga interactive website, and a fantastically transformed retail environment with limited-edition exclusive products created in collaboration with the performer under the creative direction of Nicola Formichetti with artists Eli Sudbrack and Christophe Hamaide Pierson of assume vivid astro focus.


A take on Santa’s iconic workshop, it launched on Nov. 21, taking over the entire 5,500 sq. ft., fifth floor of the Madison Avenue Men’s store. In the Workshop, are eight stations reflecting the product categories available which will greatly benefit from the mobility and flexibility of Micros-Retail miStore.

“The mobile POS will help Barneys New York to manage the high volume of expected shoppers and allow quick checkout, not only for typical holiday shopping traffic, but for the increased traffic for the reopening of our transformed CO-OP space,” said Sean O’Reilly, VP IT at Barneys.

Barneys is using the holiday season to launch MICROS-Retail miStore mobile POS, with plans to expand to stores across the country. The mobile system allows more freedom for employees to navigate throughout the store to better service shoppers, as associates are able to conduct sales and locate inventory via portable Apple products, predominately the iPod Touch.


Treasure&Bond, Nordstrom's, New York, Shopper Marketing

Nordstrom’s Treasure&Bond, New York

Treasure&Bond may be Nordstrom’s new, cool downtown retail experiment, but it’s running on a lean and mean budget, and donating all profits to charity

Treasure&Bond, Nordstrom's, New York, Shopper Marketing

To most New York shoppers, Treasure&Bond might seem like just another trendy SoHo retailer with a cool space and an eclectic assortment of merchandise – home, accessories, jewelry, books, stationery, men’s and women’s apparel, bedding, tabletop and furniture.

But unlike those neighboring boutiques and specialty shops, this store is a pet project of Nordstrom Inc. (Seattle), which has created the concept as an experiment.

“This was the result of a ‘what if?’ exercise Nordstrom does periodically,” says Paige Boggs, Treasure&Bond’s general manager (and formerly Nordstrom’s corporate visual director). “The company likes to gather small groups of employees and brainstorm new ideas, as a way to keep the creative juices flowing.”

About a year ago, she says, the subject on the table was, “If we were to put a store in New York, and it couldn’t be a full-line store, what would it be?”

As the ideas for a funky SoHo specialty store began to coalesce, executive vp Peter Nordstrom threw in a wild card: All of the profits from this store would go to charity.

“Giving is pretty ingrained in the Nordstrom DNA,” explains Boggs. “I think he was inspired by Merci, the store in Paris that donates all its profits to a women’s and children’s charity in Madagascar.”

Proceeds from Treasure&Bond, which opened in August, go to two partnering charities per quarter, as long as they’re New York-based and benefit children and young adults. The two recipients for this current quarter are the Children’s Health Fund and the Coalition for the Homeless. A sign on the wall lists all participating charities, and there are also small signs on the windows and in the store describing the Treasure&Bond philosophy.

What’s good for charity, though, presents a hurdle for Boggs, who was relocated from Seattle, thrust into the job of starting up the new store from scratch and given a shoestring of a budget. And that started with finding fixtures and other supplies for the two-story, 11,000-square-foot store on West Broadway.

“We’re sort of ‘retail experimental,’ ” she says. “Everything inside the store is movable within a day. We have no build-outs that prevent us from being reactive to new merchandise that comes in. What’s here today can change tomorrow.”

So she first looked around the chain at any Nord-strom stores getting remodels, seeking fixtures and supplies that might otherwise be liquidated.

She’s been able to put her hands on recycled Nordstrom fixtures, “everything from antique tables in the men’s departments to catering tables that we used at fashion events.” She did have some custom work done: straight hanging racks were fabricated from real plumbing pipes, an inexpensive purchase that was also consistent with the neighborhood’s industrial style.

Elsewhere, she used store merchandise, such as tables and chairs, for display purposes, though she knew there were potential problems there. “You hope somebody will buy that incredible table,” she says, “but when they do, you have to scramble for a new merchandising solution.”

But the problem-solving part is the most rewarding. “When you can’t throw money at a problem,” she says, “you learn how to throw thinking at it.”

Treasure&Bond doesn’t have the parent company’s deep pockets at its disposal. Boggs says it’s completely off the Nordstrom grid, not using the department store chain’s cash register or inventory system, nor taking Nordstrom credit cards nor using its supply chain to access fixtures, equipment or merchandise.

Neither, insists Boggs, is it a stalking horse for a bigger Manhattan footprint, which Nordstrom has been rumored to be seeking for years, or the first of a larger roll-out. “It’s purely an experiment in doing something new and different,” she says.


Motorola Solutions, Retail Localization, Survey

75 Percent Of Retail Associates Report Latest Mobile Technology Leads To Better Customer Experience, According To Motorola Solutions Survey

Motorola Solutions, Retail Localization, Survey

The latest installment of the Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI) annual Holiday Shopping Survey highlights that three in four (75 percent) surveyed retail associates and managers feel they provide a better in-store customer experience when equipped with the latest mobile technologies. In fact, shoppers echoed a similar sentiment as more than two-thirds (67 percent) of surveyed shoppers reported heightened satisfaction with retailers where in-store associates utilized the latest technologies to assist in the shopping experience.

The rising availability of shopping-assisted options across all shopping channels has raised customer service expectations for shoppers and retail associates. According to the survey, more than eight in ten (83.3 percent) surveyed retail associates and managers believe that shoppers can easily find a better deal so customer service is more important than ever. From a shopper perspective, 33 percent of shopping trips ended with shoppers leaving before satisfying their intent to purchase, costing an average of $125 per trip. Of those lost opportunities, more than 73 percent did not complete their purchases with the original retailer.

While shopper activity and spend remains higher in-store than online, retailers need to continue to address the needs of the omni-channel shopper. Online purchases swelled by more than 18 percent compared to 2010 and 63 percent of surveyed shoppers with smartphones downloaded some type of shopping application.

Increasing online spend has created variances in satisfaction between offline and online experiences – almost 41 percent of shoppers were not satisfied with the ability to receive in-stock status in-store compared to 20 percent online. Approximately 27 percent of shoppers were not satisfied with the ease of finding correct prices in-store versus approximately 14 percent online; and 42 percent of shoppers were not satisfied with the check-out process in-store compared to 15 percent online. Online shoppers cited a much higher dissatisfaction rate (41 percent compared to 25 percent) for the return/exchange process, providing a significant advantage for in-store retailers.


Fifth Avenue, New York, Retail Localization

Taking the Fifth

How chain stores turned NYC’s most glamorous avenue into America’s glitziest mall.

“I thought we got rid of Disney and the NBA Store, and we were going to get some grand, luxury emporium,” sniffs Hayley Corwick, the Upper East Side blogger behind shopping site Madison Avenue Spy. “Things were looking up. And all of a sudden, it was Hollister and Uniqlo. It’s mystifying. The walk from Bergdorf to Saks used to be a dazzling window shopping experience, and now I find it a little more like the new 42nd Street.”

Fifth Avenue, New York, Retail Localization

Fifth Avenue has been the city’s most extravagant residential street for 150 years, ever since Caroline Schermerhorn Astor announced its arrival by moving to the corner of Fifth and 34th Street in 1862. As the moneyed class proliferated, a tony shopping district soon followed, with Bergdorf Goodman and Lord & Taylor’s flagship stores opening in 1914 and Saks Fifth Avenue debuting 10 years later.

For decades, the stretch between 49th and 60th streets was one of the most expensive in the world, dotted with high-end boutiques such as Cartier, Henri Bendel, Harry Winston and Louis Vuitton. Perhaps its most celebrated shop is Tiffany & Co., where Holly Golightly dreamed of finding a more glamorous life — and the man who’d pay for it all.

Now the only retailers who can afford to pay as much as $2,500 a square foot — Uniqlo forked over $300 million for a 15-year lease at 666 Fifth Ave. — are mass market operations such as American Girl, Swatch and Nine West, which consider their shiny new flagships important marketing tools.

“Fifth Avenue is one of the most important shopping destinations in the world,” says Uniqlo USA CEO Shin Odake. “Therefore opening Uniqlo Fifth Avenue was an important step for us in our expansion in the US.”

Last November, the real estate world was shocked when Forever21 took up temporary residence in the distinguished digs formerly occupied by Takashimaya. The elegant six-story Japanese emporium opened in 1958 and was bursting with treasures, from exotic teas to fine china to posh cosmetics.


Planogram, retail tablet, motorola

Survey: Mobile technology leads to better customer experience

Three in four retail associates and managers said they provide a better in-store customer experience when equipped with the latest mobile technologies, according to Motorola Solutions’ annual Holiday Shopping Survey. It also found that shoppers echoed a similar sentiment as more than two-thirds (67 percent) of surveyed shoppers reported heightened satisfaction with retailers where in-store associates utilized the latest technologies to assist in the shopping experience.

Planogram, retail tablet, motorola

The rising availability of shopping-assisted options across all shopping channels has raised customer service expectations for shoppers and retail associates, according to the survey, which found that more than eight in 10 (83.3 percent) retail associates and managers believed that shoppers can easily find a better deal. From a shopper perspective, 33 percent of shopping trips ended with shoppers leaving before satisfying their intent to purchase, costing an average of $125 per trip. Of those lost opportunities, more than 73 percent did not complete their purchases with the original retailer.

While shopper activity and spend remains higher in-store than online, retailers need to continue to address the needs of the omni-channel shopper, the survery stated. Online purchases swelled by more than 18 percent compared to 2010, and 63 percent of surveyed shoppers with smartphones downloaded some type of shopping application.

“Retailers continue to deploy technology to improve the shopping experience but need to pay closer attention to the growing expectations of the omni-channel shopper,” Michelle Crissey, customer solutions lead, Motorola Solutions, said about the report. “Rather than just give them technology and call it a positive experience, customers prefer that retailers use the technology in a meaningful way to actually give them a better experience, both in-store and for fulfillment of online and mobile orders.”


Branding Visual Merchandising

Why The Best Brands Eventually Leave Their Names Behind

Branding giant Joe Duffy looks at the world’s most powerful brands and how they’ve evolved to the point of “wordlessness.”

In our business, we often have the opportunity to bring a new brand to life. With that comes a question we often hear from clients: “Do you do naming?” And then, “What’s your process?”

Branding Visual Merchandising

It’s a regular part of our process to struggle with naming a new company, product, merger, or acquisition. You might be asking yourself, Did he mean to write “struggle”? Yes, I did. And it’s a bigger struggle today than it was before the onset of the World Wide Web and the ensuing global market that everyone now plays in. Perhaps the biggest aggravation is the difficulty in securing a simple and meaningful URL and trademark/copyright. It’s become a bit of a gamers’ business to buy and hold names today, and so many meaningful options have been taken.

In part, that is why our approach to naming is different than many firms that specialize in naming. Because when you stop and really think about it, how important is it that a name actually explains your product’s unique selling proposition, defines your company, or pegs you into a specific category? And even if any or all of those factors are driving forces behind your naming objective, do you have the luxury of choosing a name that will have only one linguistic meaning? The truth is that naming is about much more than words; it goes beyond linguistics and phonetics.

Think for a moment about some of today’s most famous brands. Consider these names–alone. Apple. Amazon. Target. What do any of these words say about the products they sell? The services offered? The groups that started them, or more important, the companies that they have become?

Not much.

Then stop for a moment and think about the way the world communicates today. Paraphrasing. Colloquialisms. Jargon. Even when you have a brand name that defines your raison d’être, it often gets abbreviated. That’s what happened to Federal Express and Aol.

And then…they embraced it.

These are but a few examples of truly relevant brands. Their true meaning comes from getting to know them, watching them evolve, seeing them for more than the letters that make up the words in their names. So while I won’t say that the name itself is unimportant, I firmly believe that it is so much more than the name alone.

Right now, we happen to be working on an amazing new product that is in need of a brand name. We’ve done the typical research. Studied the category semantics and the competition. We’ve brainstormed new possibilities, many of them names that are quite clever, reinterpret known meanings, present interesting spellings or letterform opportunities, lean into modern vernacular and more. The problem we face now, as is often the case, is in getting everyone on board at this early stage. Finding a word that everyone can agree works best. What we find is that those that are “new” don’t sound quite right. They are unfamiliar. I guess that makes them strange. Those that may seem common in their mere verbal presentation may hold tremendous design potential around letterform, in type, or with the addition of a simple symbol. But at this stage, it’s difficult for the team at large to envision the full potential.

I probably won’t surprise you, but I’ve always believed that making a decision on a name, without the benefit of seeing it in its visual form, puts a person at a significant disadvantage. Done well, the power of the graphic presentation adds significant meaning. The interplay of positive and negative space (the arrow in FedEx); unique logotype (Saks Fifth Ave., Diet Coke); a symbol (I love NY); and color (Tiffany). These are some of the many elements that can work in concert with words to deliver greater meaning to a name. These are the cues that transform a meaningful name from being a mere product descriptor to a brand with differentiation, relevance, and personality.

The development of a successful new brand (in support of a unique product or service concept, of course) is dependent on the creation of an entire “brand language” to surround it. A brand language is composed of multiple communication tools. Words and tone of voice are parts of a brand language on the verbal side. Things like color, type, symbols, icons, illustration and photo styles, materials, and textures are visual components in a brand language. Every element should be uniquely designed for a brand to create an ownable voice, and when used in combination, they provide a proprietary way to execute in a way that can cut through category clutter.

As our world becomes more integrated, with the ability to see many cultures and readily buy and sell goods from multiple nations, as businesses cross borders more consistently, as our interaction with technology and the visual communication of graphic user-interface design increases, and as we are constantly pushed to process more and more information, we’re beginning to see some brands evolve to a place of “wordlessness.” Apple, Levi’s, Starbucks, and Nike are a few of the noteworthy brands that are leading this branding evolution. Perhaps this is because we’ve come to a point where we see new opportunity that can come with transcending the differences and struggles that verbal communication presents.

True power brands have much more than a name in their arsenal of marketing communications weapons. And just like the people we find ourselves attracted to and want to spend time with, they walk, talk, and act in a way that is unique to their character. They’re true to themselves, and you can depend on their meaningful characteristics and actions–even beyond their words–to stand the test of time.


OpenTable Restaurant Shopper Marketing

OpenTable: Top restaurants of 2011

Online restaurant reservations website OpenTable Inc. has named the top 100 U.S. restaurants of the year based on more than 10 million user-submitted reviews of more than 12,000 restaurants.

OpenTable Restaurant Shopper Marketing

On the list are classic standbys, such as Canlis in Seattle, The Palace Arms in Denver and L’Etoile in Madison, Wis. Restaurants that have long enjoyed acclaim from professional critics also are on the list, such as Daniel in New York City, The French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., and Restaurant August in New Orleans.

Several chain restaurants made the list, too, including Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Jacksonville, Fla., and the Melting Pot in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

See the full list

"The restaurants on this list are wonderfully varied, but they have one overwhelming quality in common — each establishment is taking every opportunity to deliver a superb dining experience," said OpenTable chief dining officer Caroline Potter. "Quality and consistency in the food, service and setting are the hallmarks of the very best restaurants, and all three elements can be found in abundance by diners visiting any of these honorees."

Here are 10 selected restaurants from OpenTable’s list:

• Acqua, White Bear Lake, Minn.
• Bibou, Philadelphia

• The Chef and The Farmer, Kinston, N.C.
• Daniel, New York
• Jens’ Restaurant, Anchorage, Ala.
• Madrona Manor, Healdsburg, Calif.
• Menton, Boston

• Restaurant August, New Orleans
• Vie, Western Springs, Ill.
• Woodfire Grill, Atlanta

See more from these 10 restaurants


Restaurant Interior Design, visual merchandising

Survey: Restaurant operators optimistic on 2012 sales

Restaurant industry same-store sales remained flat in November, mainly because guest traffic tapered off from prior months, but operators remained bullish on sales outlooks for the next six months, according to the latest NRN-MillerPulse survey.

The December survey found that industrywide same-store sales rose 2.5 percent in November, in line with the 2.5-percent increase in October. However, sales did slow slightly on a two-year basis, rising 5.3 percent in November versus a 6.3-percent increase in October.

Restaurant Interior Design, visual merchandising

MillerPulse, an operator survey exclusive to Nation’s Restaurant News, polled around 70 restaurant operators in December regarding November sales, profit trends, performance and outlooks. Respondents cover all regions of the country and represent the quick-service, casual-dining, fine-dining and fast-casual segments. Those surveyed in December represented restaurants that booked about 17 percent of industry sales.

Same-store sales for quick-service restaurants, which include both fast-food and fast-casual brands, increased 3.4 percent in November, compared with 3.6 percent in October, and sales for full-service restaurants, which include both fine-dining and casual-dining brands, remained consistent with a 1.6-percent increase in November, compared with a 1.4-percent uptick in the prior month.

The modest same-store sales numbers are a reflection of a dip in guest traffic, which increased just 0.1 percent during the Thanksgiving month, compared with a 1.4-percent increase in October. The biggest concern was a traffic decline in the full-service category, said Larry Miller, restaurant securities analyst at RBC Capital Markets in Atlanta and creator of the monthly MillerPulse surveys and research.

“This is the first negative traffic figure we’ve seen in full-service in over a year,” Miller said. “That can be concerning going into next year.”

Guest traffic for full-service restaurants fell 1.1 percent in November compared with a slight increase in October. And while quick-service traffic increased 0.9 percent in November, it was a significantly less substantial gain than the nearly 3.0 percent increase reported in October.

With the holiday shopping season, Miller said he would’ve expected traffic to be better, but the numbers show that consumers remain careful how and where they dine out.

“People came out for discounts in retail and they looked for restaurant value as well,” he said. “This is why we are seeing a widening differential between quick service and full service.”