A blast of warm weather on the East Coast leading up to the Easter holiday weekend drove shoppers to specialty apparel stores, but the rush didn’t boost sales in other retail segments, according to the The Retail Economist-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index report.
And as sluggish store traffic continues, researchers at DynamicAction said in a separate report that the shift to making more purchases online is being met by retailers with better on-time delivery. An analysis from the firm also noted a robust gain in premium express shipping while free shipping showed only modest gains.
For the week ended Saturday, April 15, the weekly sales report showed an increase of 0.7 percent. The gain compared to a jump in sales for the previous week, and on a year-over-year basis, Michael P. Niemira, chief economist of The Retail Economist LLC, said sales “also improved modestly by a still‐sluggish 0.8 percent.”
“Warm weather in the East and the week leading up to Easter seemingly helped to spur sales at apparel stores, but there appeared to be little sales strength across most other segments of the industry,” Niemira said, adding that a recent study issued by Goldman Sachs this week “summed up the current retail environment best” by noting that a “sturdy macro” backdrop has not translated to good performance among traditional retailers in large part due to new shopping behaviors.”
These behaviors — as reported in WWD — include an ongoing preference for spending on experiences as well as desire for “channel agnostic” shopping transactions. Retailers are responding by adding more dining inside stores and malls while shopping center developers are creating destinations that include luxury and apparel retailers augmented by spa and wellness venues, art galleries, exhibitions and space for hosting community events.
Sarah Engel, chief marketing officer at DynamicAction (a retail prescriptive analytics company), told WWD that consumers are spending money, but “they are just not spending in the same ways, and the retailers who are well down the path of recognizing this fact and re-engineering their businesses accordingly are those who will continue to see their customers embracing their brands and purchasing their products in the years ahead.”
Engel noted that more than ever, “the shopping experience is dictated by the consumer. She has complete power over how and where she researches, shops, buys and even returns, and her expectations are higher than ever to win her initial purchase and build long-term loyalty.” Engel said this change in consumer behavior is reaching a pinnacle this year. And the efficiency of a company’s e-commerce capabilities is increasingly determining success.
“Once a consumer makes the emotional and financial commitment to purchase, she wants her dress, skirt or shoes to arrive nearly immediately,” Engel said. “She expects it to arrive when the retailer promised her delivery, and that her package and its contents will be in prime condition. Although Amazon led the way in setting expectations for shipping and delivery, all customer-centric retailers are constantly evolving their logistics and operations to follow suit.”
Engel said Matchesfashion.com, for example, is now able to deliver in London within 90 minutes. “Neiman Marcus offers buy online, pick up in store within two hours and same-day delivery on many of their products,” she added.
After analyzing online shopping data, Engel said retailers are answering customers’ shipping expectations “better than in the past, with a 37 percent reduction in late-to-ship orders thus far in 2017 versus 2016.” Engel noted that while free shipping is up about 3 percent so far this year — “orders using express shipping are up 138 percent thus far in 2017 versus 2016. Shoppers want their orders now, and they are willing to pay for it.”
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