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New November Insights in a Snap!

November 16, 2012 Leave a comment

This month’s Consumer Snapshot is ready! The video below is a concise look at a few trending topics for the month of November, designed to give you a BIG picture view of current consumers.

Here’s a brief overview of what we’re seeing from consumers in November 2012:

- Confidence reaches a five year high
– With the holiday season on the horizon, it appears that consumers are in a gifting mood
– With the majority planning to begin holiday purchasing before December, the tightwad tendencies we’ve seen over the past few months have begun to relax
– Payless advances to the co-leader position in Shoes
– Walmart trumps Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s in Organics
– 90 Day Outlook: Mixed from October, UP from Nov-11, Nov-10
– I hope Santa blings me something sparkly
– What’s Hot…Giving thanks for Black Friday?


Be sure to check out the NEW Consumer Snapshot InsightCenter™. When you register for complimentary access to this InsightCenter™, you’ll have the ability to segment an advance preview of our all-star insights on consumer confidence, employment, shopping strategies, and future purchase plans by several key demographic groups. You can also download this month’s text summary (which includes additional insights) as well as the PowerPoint analysis through this InsightCenter™.

Interested in becoming a BIG VIP? Please click here to sign up for access to a host of complimentary insights, from our briefings and webinars to press releases and more.

Source: BIGinsight.com

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

The Aging Of Apple? Google Android Voted Coolest Kid On The Playground

November 13, 2012 Leave a comment

With its cryptic “the playground is open” tagline, the recently planned [and cancelled, #thankyouSandy] Google Android event had many pundits speculating on what would be introduced. So, we thought we’d once again ask the real experts – consumers – for their take on the Android platform versus the Apple iOS. After all, the nearly 9,000 consumers BIGinsight talks to each month correctly gauged the room temperature reception of September’s iPhone 5 announcement from Apple.

Hot or Not? Google Android OS versus Apple iOSAs it turns out, a look at the latest results from our “Hot or Not” feature reveals that the Google Android OS may be becoming quite the pressure cooker for Apple’s iOS. While the majority of adults deemed both the Google Android platform and Apple iOS as pretty popular in October, Android maintained a slight lead on the pairing with 53.0% voting it “hot” to Apple’s 51.4%.

These insights become really interesting, though, when divvied up by generation. While more than three out of five of the must-have Millennial demographic concurred that both platforms were “hot,” it was Android again (with 64.0%) that held the edge over Apple (61.9%). The operating system disparity was greatest among Gen X-ers, who were 10% more likely to side with Android (58.6%) versus Apple (53.4%). Boomers were on the fence for this debate, while Apple finally found some support among the Silent generation. Nearly half (46.8%) of those born before 1946 judged Apple to be “hot,” four points higher than those who felt the same way about Android (41.4%).

HOT: Google Android OS versus Apple iOS

Bottom Line: While both platforms are undoubtedly popular, it seems that the children of our future – Millennials and Gen X-ers – are positioning Google Android as the mobile future, at least for the time being. As I recall, playground popularity contests could be pretty competitive.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

JC Penney’s Million Women Walkout

October 30, 2012 Leave a comment

While shying away from using the word coupon, JC Penney’s recent delivery of a $10 “gift” to its email newsletter recipients demonstrated that the beleaguered department store was finally bending to what its customers have been asking for all along: a deal. Since the commencement of its “Fair & Square” promotional strategy in Q1 of 2012, JC Penney has been fighting a losing battle with its dwindling customer base, trying to spoon feed shoppers everyday low pricing like its ice cream, while in reality they were tasting [insert your least favorite veggie here]. What did JC Penney forget? In this economy, consumers have the upper hand with retailers.

With sales set in a tailspin during the first half of the year, it’s obvious that “Fair & Square” was a costly turnabout for both JC Penney and its customers.  But what price did JC Penney pay in terms of lost shoppers?

According to the Consumer Equity Index™ for the highly competitive women’s clothing segment, JC Penney’s share of female customers shrank 13% in the past year, leaving the department store with an index of 86.9 (baseline index = 100).* That equates to a loss of 1.3 million of the department store’s most loyal female women’s clothing shoppers.

With their million woman march out of JC Penney, these shoppers appear to have gravitated to Kohl’s (index = 104.5), Macy’s (116.1), Target (121.6), and even Walmart (112.2) for their women’s apparel purchases. Female shopper share for each of these competitors has increased over the past 13 months:

A million shoppers are a lot to lose in a year’s time – especially in just one category – but the numbers become even more sobering when you consider how much potential revenue JC Penney let slip from its grasp. With the average female spending more than $500 per year within the women’s clothing segment, an estimated $745 million in potential revenue has walked out of JC Penney’s women’s department over the past year – that’s a big share of purse, if you will.

JC Penney’s $10 gift comes at a pivotal time for retailing: the all-important holiday season. And with shoppers continuing to be drawn to sales, coupons, and promotions like moths to a flame, JC Penney is likely to see a short-term increase in the foot traffic it so desperately needs. However, while the department store indicates that this “gift” does not signal their return to couponing, if they want repeat customers, they may have to keep the coupons gifts coming.

* The Consumer Equity Index™ from BIGinsight™ is a year over year index showing growth or decline of consumer preference share. An index of 100 is flat, an index of 105 indicates 5% growth, while an index of 95 denotes 5% decline.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

Consumers’ Cure for Stress? Halloween

October 18, 2012 1 comment

What do you get when you combine tenuous consumer confidence, discouraging employment outlook, and an upcoming Presidential election? Economic uncertainty, which generally leads to consumers clamping down harder on their wallets. That’s not quite the case, though, with Halloween.

This year, a record number of consumers (71.5%) plan to spend a record amount of money ($79.82) on the holiday according to insights we collected for the National Retail Federation. As BIGinsight EVP Phil Rist puts it: “There’s some pent-up demand for having some fun this year.”

Aside from fun, though, it seems that a growing number of consumers is viewing Halloween as having, well, a therapeutic benefit. According to the latest insights from our October survey, one in four celebrants (25.6%) agreed that Halloween “somewhat” or “very much” a stress reliever, rising 20% from last year. And, that number grows substantially among the age groups most likely to don a costume or head to a party this year: 18-24 year olds (39.5%) and 25 to 34 year olds (36.8%), both up from a year ago.

Interestingly, while the thought that Halloween relieves stress declines with age (see chart below), the number of 45 to 54 year olds adhering to this sentiment has risen 36% over a year ago – the highest growth in any age group. Perhaps it’s because this group – on the cusp of retirement and/or sending kids to college and/or worrying about property values and/or etc. – might be most in need of a little levity.

Halloween is "Somewhat" or "Very Much" a Stress Reliever

My tip for a low-stress Halloween? Nix the raisins on Beggar’s Night. Passing out some sugar to the neighbor kids sure beats pulling endless amounts of toilet paper out of your trees the next morning.

Source: BIGinsight.com

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

New October Insights in a Snap!

October 16, 2012 1 comment

This month’s Consumer Snapshot is ready! The video below is a concise look at a few trending topics for the month of October, designed to give you a BIG picture view of current consumers.

Here’s a brief overview of what we’re seeing from consumers in October 2012:

- Beware the fiscal cliff: confidence declines from September
– Employment outlook improves, but still just 1 in 5 expect “fewer” layoffs over the next 6 months
– Practicality when purchasing remains intact
– Increasing savings reaches highest October reading in 6 years
– Walmart wins in Apparel, Shoes
– Toys R Us, Amazon.com see YOY gains in Children’s Toys
– Holiday ’12 is shaping up to be a bit brighter, with the 90 Day Outlook improving for all categories
– DSLR buying trend? Plans to purchase digital cameras highest in 2 years
– Meet Little Miss “Not” Hot for October: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

 

And NEW this month is the Consumer Snapshot InsightCenter™. When you register for complimentary access to this new InsightCenter™, you’ll have the ability to segment an advance preview of our all-star insights on consumer confidence, employment, shopping strategies, and future purchase plans by several key demographic groups. You can also download this month’s text summary (which includes additional insights) as well as the PowerPoint analysis through this InsightCenter™.

Interested in becoming a BIG VIP? Please click here to sign up for access to a host of complimentary insights, from our briefings and webinars to press releases and more.

Source: BIGinsight.com

© 2012, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

The Holiday ’12 State of the Consumer

October 11, 2012 Leave a comment

This week, the National Retail Federation announced their 2012 holiday forecast, predicting that sales will rise 4.1% over 2011 to $586.1 billion. The sales growth is expected to be slightly higher than the 10-year average holiday sales increase (3.5%), though pacing below last year’s growth (5.6%). With holiday shoppers gearing up for spending, let’s take a look at the “state of the consumer” as we head into this all-important selling season for retailers:

Confidence is UP, but Feelings are Volatile. In the BIGinsight September monthly survey of more than 9,000 consumers, 38% indicated that they were very confident or confident in chances for a strong economy. This was a high reading for 2012 and a vast improvement over the September 2011’s 23%, when consumers were still reeling from the debt crisis. Confidence is riding a four-point upswing from August to September, but don’t look for this indicator to continue to improve at this pace – 2012 has been a rollercoaster ride for sentiment and continued fluctuation is expected headed into Q4.

Consumer Confidence

The outcome of the “fiscal cliff” drama on Capitol Hill remains big question mark for the sustainability of confidence – as well as holiday sales. Should we fall off that precipice – and realize an average 2013 tax bill increase of $3500 – holiday budgets are bound to shrink. Adding to the precarious position of the economy? Our continuously weak job market. And the upcoming Presidential election also adds to the uncertainty.

Frugality is a Fixture in Consumer Finances. Along with the relatively robust increase in consumer confidence in September, we also witnessed similar increases in those focused on practical purchasing and buying just the necessities. In fact, both indicators are in line with what we saw a year ago, when confidence was just 23%. So yes, Virginia, despite the more positive outlook for the economy, consumers are still being very cautious with what they spend – even as we look forward to the holiday shopping season.

Expect holiday shoppers to stick to budgets, avoid impulse buys, continue smart shopping strategies, such as couponing, sales/promotions, and comparison shopping, as gift-buying commences. Frugality continues to be the name of the game with consumers because they know the economy isn’t “fixed.” Paying down debt and reducing spending remain fiscal priorities headed into the final three months of 2012, while plans to increase savings reached a six-year September high last month, so it appears that consumers may be preparing for holiday shopping as well as those everyday unknowns.

Pricing uncertainty in key areas, like grocery, gas, and apparel, continues to be of concern with consumers. An increasing number of shoppers are relying on their credit cards more compared to September 2011 when purchasing such staples – so we are still seeing signs of struggling consumers. (i.e. Holiday ’12 won’t herald a season of “recovery.”)

However, if it can be avoided, shoppers won’t make this Christmas on credit. Year over year, fewer are paying off just the minimum monthly balance on their cards, while we’ve seen a slight rise in those carrying $0 average monthly balances. The past four years have been a tough road for consumers, but they do appear to be focusing on not falling back into the lax spending/savings patterns that got them into a mess back in 2008.

Consumers Know They Have the Upper Hand with Retailers. Can we call this retail transparency? The rising popularity of mobile devices has taken much of the mystery out of shopping for customers holding a smartphone or tablet. They can compare prices, check availability, and even click “buy” from virtually wherever they are located, and shoppers will work all angles – online, instore, mobile, social media, coupon sites, direct mail, email, and ad circulars – to make sure that their holiday spending remains on budget. It’ll be a spending game that consumers want to win.

However, we know that all retailers can’t compete on low price alone [I’m looking at you, Best Buy.] Great customer service and personal rapport with shoppers will be key in driving traffic to retailers who aren’t low-price providers. Product selection, availability, and brand assortment – something department stores having really honed in on in the past few years – will also serve to turn shoppers’ heads this season. “Cheap is chic” is SO 2008; today’s shoppers want value and are willing to pay a little more for quality – as long as they can use a coupon.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

Can an iPhone 5 Save JC Penney?

It seems that Apple has the Midas Touch, and when JC Penney brought former SVP Ron Johnson on board in late 2011, it was heralded by many as a genius decision. Long relegated to the back of consumers’ minds [along with Sears], it appeared that this department store dinosaur was finally making a conscious effort to reinvigorate its stodgy image and arming itself to compete with its more present day foes: Macy’s, Kohl’s, and TJ Maxx.

With the advent of m-commerce, social media, and increasing connectivity, it seemed that this marriage between an Apple exec and JC Penney was a solid union – at least enough to advance the department store into 21st century retailing. However, as 2012 has progressed, it has become clear that the new “Fair & Square” JC Penney has gotten off to a very rocky start.

While JC Penney certainly has taken some steps in the right direction – focusing on exclusive brand names from the likes of Nicole Miller, Liz Claiborne, Mango, and even the Olsen twins takes a page from Kohl’s and Macy’s successful playbooks. Today’s consumers demand quality products at great prices, and they want to feel good about their purchases when walking out of the store. Here’s where JC Penney missteps: they have eliminated the excitement from the shoppers’ buying process. Having an extra 10-20% off coupon or buying an item on sale – which Kohl’s and Macy’s offer in abundance – gives the shopper the feeling that they’ve one-upped the retailer, i.e. the customer wins.

This shopping euphoria is essential when marketing apparel in an uncertain economy. Consumers already had closets full of clothes, and when it came time to really trim budgets during the “Great Recession,” apparel was one of the easiest budget cuts to stomach. It’s interesting that even during a downturn in the economy, electronics sold – maybe with a little less frequency and at somewhat lower price points, but the latest HDTVs, tablets, notebooks, smartphones, and all things iOS were, and continue to be, hot selling items. Budget-conscious consumers could justify the purchase of a new TV or computer; these were items that the whole family could enjoy, helped us multitask, and in some cases, assist with homework. In other words, electronics were fun, practical, and educational. Consumers literally couldn’t buy into this same reasoning when it came to apparel or home goods, categories that JC Penney so desperately needed to move on the selling floor.

When Johnson joined JC Penney last year, it appeared that the Apple “ego” followed him as well. Apple is an innovative brand with a heady following, and its retail outlets, which Johnson cultivated, served to build on this loyalty and brought out the curiosity in others – they were what shoppers demanded and gravitated toward.

JC Penney lacks the Apple cachet, and its “Fair & Square” overhaul – ditching coupons and weekly promotions in the process – failed to make a compelling argument as to why shoppers needed to check out their revamped stores. Sure low prices are great, but the new normal directs shoppers to seek out that extra incentive when it comes to buying non-essentials like apparel and home décor. The “new” JC Penney already has proof of this – just look at its successful free haircut promotion for Back-to-School; the operative word here, of course, is free.

A glance at what motivates shoppers to make apparel purchases shows us the continued importance of instore promotions and coupons in this category. According to BIGinsight’s semi-annual Media Behaviors and Influence™ survey of 25,000 consumers, apparel sales and promotions are the #1 driver for shoppers of many of the top U.S. retailers, including JC Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Gap, H&M, and Nordstrom – yes, even promotions are key with luxury shoppers. And, in instances where instore promotions aren’t the top motivation for apparel purchases, they are still likely top of mind. At TJ Maxx, for example, while 42.3% rely on word of mouth, nearly as many (40.4%) value a good sale.

While word of mouth is the #2 influencer for apparel purchases among JC Penney shoppers (at 36.3%), coupons are almost as important (35.5%). JC Penney customers’ attraction to apparel coupons is stronger than that of the general population (30.7%) as well. Coupons don’t carry nearly as much clout over in Apple’s wheelhouse – electronics – so it’s plain to see why Johnson was so quick to axe those money-savers at JC Penney.

So can an iPhone save JC Penney? Can a marketing approach borne from Apple revive a struggling department store? Can pigs fly? Clearly not. What works for Apple – what used to work for Ron Johnson – simply has no place in JC Penney’s strategy. Today’s apparel shoppers have honed their bargain-hunting skills and crave a good deal on their terms. Instead of trying to force “Fair & Square” on the buying public – much like the launch of a great, new, innovative product à la Apple – JC Penney really should have first become more attuned its target customers.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

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