MANY RETAILERS IN A FREE FALL AFTER DISAPPOINTING CHRISTMAS SEASON - By Britt Beemer
Many of the nation's retailers took it on the chin over Christmas, and are now faced with the daunting task of how to lure customers back to their stores.
Of the 26 retail categories we survey for America's Research Group’s Consumer Mind Reader ™ survey, more than half showed declines in store visits from 2006 Christmas shopping levels. The 800 shoppers we interviewed reported they had abandoned many specialty retailers, membership warehouse clubs, furniture and accessories stores, discount apparel and shoe stores, and a host of other categories.
When compared to the 2006 Christmas shopping season, the results are even more alarming. Nearly 8 in 10 retail categories showed declines in shopping levels from Christmas of 2006.
Many stores showed shopping declines over last year's levels. Categories seeing fewer customers included national department stores, and retailers of discount apparel, books, Christian books, bed and bath, home accessories, sporting goods, shoes, furniture, catalogs, music and musical instruments. Even toy stores showed a decline in Christmas shoppers.
After the big rush on Black Friday, the slow start to major Christmas shopping did not help the situation for many retailers. Consumers are aware of the widely-practiced retail strategy of marking down merchandise as the holidays draw closer. And they are willing to out wait the retailers to buy, even if it means facing larger crowds.
Shopping convenience and ease of shopping are also at issue. Busy consumers today are more likely to shop stores they can buy several different items.
Categories on opposite ends of the retail spectrum were among the few to break the trend of the dismal season. Discount stores and jewelry stores actually improved their shopping levels slightly when compared with the 2007 Christmas season.
But unfortunately the remaining categories fell through the cracks when it came time to attract consumers into their stores. Retailers must recognize that the consumer is in a changing and evolving mode. Their old shopping patterns no longer hold true. Retailers must force themselves to get inside the shopper's mind early and often, from a scientific viewpoint, and adopt strategies that will appeal to those consumers. Only through conducting thorough, quantitative research through a company such as America’s Research Group can retailers find out what's going on with their shoppers and how they can win them back.
Britt Beemer, founder and chairman of America's Research Group, is the country’s leading authority on retail buying habits of consumers. ARG tracks consumer buying habits more than any other survey research firm in the nation. The company conducts customized surveys for retail and manufacturing clients across the United States, designed to provide clients valuable marketing recommendations to grow their businesses. Beemer is author of two best-selling business books, Predatory Marketing and It Takes a Prophet to Make a Profit. He is currently working on a third business book, to be entitled The Customer Rules, which is due out in the fall of 2008. More detailed information is available on the America’s Research Group website at http://www.americasresearchgroup.com