Arkansas Retailers Hope Holiday Season Is Happy

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 12:00 am  

Barbara Graves plans to launch an advertising campaign to lure customers to her store for the holidays. (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

Barbara Graves will be aggressive this holiday season.

“We’re asking [customers] for their business,” said Graves, who owns Barbara Graves Intimate Fashions in Little Rock, which sells lingerie, swimwear and loungewear and features a mastectomy department. “We’re talking to customers, … seeing what they want and how do we get it for them.”

She said sales have been down about 3.5 percent year-to-date from last year, but she hopes to see positive sales numbers by the end of the year. To do that, she will launch an advertising campaign that includes niche publications, newspapers, Facebook and possibly radio advertisements.

“It’s been a challenging year,” said Graves who has been in business for nearly 40 years.

This holiday season will be a mixed bag for Arkansas retailers, though. While some are projecting about the same sales as last year, others forecast higher sales during the holiday shopping season, which begins the day after Thanksgiving and gives retailers 32 shopping days and five full weekends of crowded malls.

(See Also: Arkansas Retailers Report Mixed Holiday Outlooks)

Across the country, retailers are expected to see an increase over last year’s holiday sales. The National Retail Federation of Washington, D.C., predicted holiday sales this year would increase 4.1 percent from 2011 to $586.1 billion.

For the 2011 holiday season, retail sales were projected to be up about 3 percent, but finished with a 5.6 percent increase, the highest growth since 2005, when it rose 6.2 percent compared over the previous year.

“I think we’re going to see a fairly modest increase,” said Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He projects retail sales in Arkansas will be up 4 or 4.5 percent from last year.

THVideo: An Early Holiday Shopping Forecast

 

Others experts foresee a modest gain for Arkansas.

“When I weigh the positive and the negative factors, it really points to a slight improvement in retail sales at Christmastime, but mostly more of the same,” said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas’ Walton Business College.

Others said that the uncertainty was too great to make an accurate projection.

“Variables including an upcoming presidential election, confusion surrounding the ‘fiscal cliff’ and concern relating to future economic growth could all combine to affect consumers’ spending plans,” Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, said in a news release last week. “But overall we are optimistic that retailers’ promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers.”

Anthony Liuzzo, a business and economics professor at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., told Arkansas Business that holiday sales would be up about 3 percent this season.

He said consumers still were nervous about the unemployment rate, which stands above 8 percent nationally.

“When people see unemployment rates that high, they get a little nervous, and … more hesitant about spending dollars for holiday shopping,” he said.

In its annual holiday hiring forecast, Challenger Gray & Christmas Inc. of Chicago predicted that seasonal job gains nationwide were likely to be higher than a year ago but still below pre-recession levels.

During 2011, retailers added 660,000 workers; this year, seasonal hires could approach 700,000.

Greater Foot Traffic

More people are expected to be out shopping this holiday season, according to ShopperTrak of Chicago, which counts and analyzes retail foot traffic.

“It’s a reversal of a trend we’ve seen over the past four or five years of declining physical foot traffic,” Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, said in an interview with Arkansas Business last week.

ShopperTrak predicts a 2.8 percent increase in foot traffic over the 2011 holiday season.

Martin said people were feeling better about the economy, a sentiment that translates into consumers visiting more stores.

And having more shoppers means more opportunities for retailers to benefit from customers who will make impulse purchases, he said.

Some shoppers will go to a store to inspect an item before buying it from an online retailer — a phenomenon called “showcasing.”

Martin said between 92 and 94 percent of individual retail transactions (not total dollars spent) were happening at brick-and-mortar locations.

“People still like instant gratification,” he said.

Still, Booz & Co., a management consulting firm in Chicago, found that 40 percent of consumers now describe showcasing as their shopping strategy, according to its 2012 Holiday Retail Outlook report.

“For that matter, multichannel shopping in various combinations (research online but buy in store, buy online for pickup in stores, etc.) is sure to be the dominant consumer path to purchase this year,” the report said.

Online sales are expected to have a banner year.

The NRF projects holiday online sales will climb 12 percent to between $92 billion and $96 billion — meaning about 15 percent of total projected sales. nBarbara Graves will be aggressive this holiday season.

“We’re asking [customers] for their business,” said Graves, who owns Barbara Graves Intimate Fashions in Little Rock, which sells lingerie, swimwear and loungewear and features a mastectomy department. “We’re talking to customers, … seeing what they want and how do we get it for them.”

She said sales have been down about 3.5 percent year-to-date from last year, but she hopes to see positive sales numbers by the end of the year. To do that, she will launch an advertising campaign that includes niche publications, newspapers, Facebook and possibly radio advertisements.

“It’s been a challenging year,” said Graves who has been in business for nearly 40 years.

This holiday season will be a mixed bag for Arkansas retailers, though. While some are projecting about the same sales as last year, others forecast higher sales during the holiday shopping season, which begins the day after Thanksgiving and gives retailers 32 shopping days and five full weekends of crowded malls.

Across the country, retailers are expected to see an increase over last year’s holiday sales. The National Retail Federation of Washington, D.C., predicted holiday sales this year would increase 4.1 percent from 2011 to $586.1 billion.

For the 2011 holiday season, retail sales were projected to be up about 3 percent, but finished with a 5.6 percent increase, the highest growth since 2005, when it rose 6.2 percent compared over the previous year.

“I think we’re going to see a fairly modest increase,” said Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He projects retail sales in Arkansas will be up 4 or 4.5 percent from last year.

Others experts foresee a modest gain for Arkansas.

“When I weigh the positive and the negative factors, it really points to a slight improvement in retail sales at Christmastime, but mostly more of the same,” said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Arkansas’ Walton Business College.

Others said that the uncertainty was too great to make an accurate projection.

“Variables including an upcoming presidential election, confusion surrounding the ‘fiscal cliff’ and concern relating to future economic growth could all combine to affect consumers’ spending plans,” Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, said in a news release last week. “But overall we are optimistic that retailers’ promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers.”

Anthony Liuzzo, a business and economics professor at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., told Arkansas Business that holiday sales would be up about 3 percent this season.

He said consumers still were nervous about the unemployment rate, which stands above 8 percent nationally.

“When people see unemployment rates that high, they get a little nervous, and … more hesitant about spending dollars for holiday shopping,” he said.

In its annual holiday hiring forecast, Challenger Gray & Christmas Inc. of Chicago predicted that seasonal job gains nationwide were likely to be higher than a year ago but still below pre-recession levels.

During 2011, retailers added 660,000 workers; this year, seasonal hires could approach 700,000.

Greater Foot Traffic

More people are expected to be out shopping this holiday season, according to ShopperTrak of Chicago, which counts and analyzes retail foot traffic.

“It’s a reversal of a trend we’ve seen over the past four or five years of declining physical foot traffic,” Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, said in an interview with Arkansas Business last week.

ShopperTrak predicts a 2.8 percent increase in foot traffic over the 2011 holiday season.

Martin said people were feeling better about the economy, a sentiment that translates into consumers visiting more stores.

And having more shoppers means more opportunities for retailers to benefit from customers who will make impulse purchases, he said.

Some shoppers will go to a store to inspect an item before buying it from an online retailer — a phenomenon called “showcasing.”

Martin said between 92 and 94 percent of individual retail transactions (not total dollars spent) were happening at brick-and-mortar locations.

“People still like instant gratification,” he said.

Still, Booz & Co., a management consulting firm in Chicago, found that 40 percent of consumers now describe showcasing as their shopping strategy, according to its 2012 Holiday Retail Outlook report.

“For that matter, multichannel shopping in various combinations (research online but buy in store, buy online for pickup in stores, etc.) is sure to be the dominant consumer path to purchase this year,” the report said.

Online sales are expected to have a banner year.

The NRF projects holiday online sales will climb 12 percent to between $92 billion and $96 billion — meaning about 15 percent of total projected sales.

 

 

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