Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sometimes a Great Notion - July 19 Edition

What a week for the Retail world! It seems like just yesterday that everyone was packing away their 2008 holiday wares, and focusing on the spring, when what do you know? Christmas in July 2009! For those that can’t stomach the idea of Christmas music in your store this early, a great deal of activity as retailers gear up for the 2009 Back to School season. Finally, a cautionary tale of what happens when you break someone’s guitar. And, how online viral video can send your business into a tailspin.

Happy holiday notions!

Sometimes a Great Notion

It’s beginning to look a lot like....

Christmas? Well, that seems to be the plan with Sears and Kmart, both launching Christmas promotions on their respective web sites. Sears has launched Christmas Lane departments in 372 stores, encouraging shoppers to buy early (while they have a job I guess), and take advantage of Sears and Kmart layaway plans. Is this a good idea? One analyst suggests that it is desperation, rather than retailer inspiration.

In other Holiday news, look for retailers to push harder on holiday shopping this year, as they try to clear inventory levels and respond to slumping spring and summer sales. Word on the

street is that Black Friday will start earlier this year with greater discounts, pushing up the sales blitz to Columbus Day, six weeks earlier than the traditional Thanksgiving weekend.

It’s starting to be a gloomy......

Back to school! After lackluster June sales, retailers are already gloomy about the BTS shopping season this year. According to a recent National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, parents expect to spend about 7.7% less this year on back to school items, most noticeably in apparel. It reflects the continued lack of consumer confidence in the economy.

Two bright spots in the survey however. Technology and electronic products are still a must buy, and the survey estimates as much as an 11% increase in consumer spending in these areas. College bound students and families expect to spend 25% MORE than last year, a huge increase that raises the question, will this expectation actually translate into greater sales at the campus store register?

With BTS the second biggest shopping season, expect retailers to respond accordingly. JCPenny has recently launched a new website for teens to shop and choose their own clothes, and big box discounters like Target, Wal-Mart, and TJ Maxx all have campaigns in the works to woo parents and teen shoppers to their stores. Staples is taking an aggressive tact (isn’t this short for “tactic”?) this BTS season, lowering the prices on 250 core school supplies. Additionally, Staples is planning to bring back its well know “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” commercial spots in an effort to spark consumer enthusiasm. Expect to see Alice Cooper dancing through the Staples aisles on your tube soon!

If all else fails....

Dress like Cows! Chick-Fil-a, the rapidly growing chicken fast food chain, has a habit of creating interesting and humorous promotional campaigns. The latest, allows customers who show up at their restaurants in cow regalia to receive a free meal on “cow appreciation day.” Sort of makes you wonder if you can’t convert this idea to the campus store with the college mascot.

Chick-Fil-a has a Labor Day weekend promotion planned for this year, giving away a free chicken sandwich to any person showing up wearing a sports logo shirt (professional or amateur). Sounds like a way to partner and move some branded merchandise!

The greening of Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart stores just announced a new environmental initiative, telling over 100,000 suppliers that they will be expected to provide full environmental costs for a new labelling initiative on store shelves. Suppliers will be required to provide information on waste generation, community involvement, and resource use in manufacturing products.

As the largest retailer in the world, Wal-Mart’s gambit is significant. Compliance by manufacturers will be a requirement of doing business, and the expectation is that this initiative will roll out as early as 2011.

In terms of supplier transparency and sustainability, this is big news for the campus store. Expect to see suppliers providing this environmental information to all accounts in the next few years, as they change their packaging to meet the Wal-Mart initiative.

And finally,

A cautionary tale of consumer power. After United Airlines broke his guitar on a flight from Toronto to Chicago, Musician Dave Carrol took matters into his own hands, producing a “rock video” of his experience. Posting it on YouTube, the video has gone viral with thousands of views, and prompting United Airlines to post an apology and offer to pay for a replacement of Carrol’s guitar. What’s the fable in all of this? That power is shifting to the consumer. Businesses not responding quickly and effectively to consumer complaints run a real risk of negative public relations and brand degradation.

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