After a long retail drought, shoppers seem to be starting to return.And while no one’s looking for that trickle to turn into a monsoon, there are some hopes that the declines hitting stores hard over the past year are starting to level out.The most distinct signs of life amid what some have sought to dramatize as a retail apocalypse came from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Kohl’s Corp. and perennially strong TJX Cos. Inc., all of which singled out traffic momentum when they reported second-quarter results this week.Most recently, Wal-Mart said Thursday that its U.S. comparable sales rose 1.8 percent with traffic growth of 1.3 percent. The company’s sales online grew 60 percent, fueled by Marc Lore’s Jet-led push. Chief executive officer Doug McMillion said, “Traffic increases at store level and the e-commerce growth rate are key highlights.”RetailNext, which tracks footfall in thousands of stores, said traffic showed its smallest decline since January 2016 last month — but still slipped 5.5 percent. Conversion, or how many of those shoppers became buyers, was more promising, rising 0.5 percent in June and July, the best showing in about a year.Anna Vichitcholchai, senior manager of retail consulting at RetailNext, said she’s “expecting traffic to level out” eventually and if there is an upward trend, it will become clearer in the months ahead.Vichitcholchai said retailers that are doing a good job of engaging with their customer, online and in stores, are seeing their traffic improve.She pointed to increased coffee and food offerings in some stores as well as loyalty programs, such as those at Ulta Beauty and Sephora, which connect consumers with discounts or other incentives that keep them coming back for more.Retailers are learning more from each other, studying their approaches and picking up on what works, Vichitcholchai said.“We’re still seeing the need for customers to touch and feel the product,” she said. “Even for companies that are digital leaders, they’re starting to open their own locations because customer acquisition, the costs of it are lower than online business and provide margins that are higher. The storefront is the new homepage for retailers.”While nobody disputes the importance of e-commerce, retailers are keenly aware that brick-and-mortar stores still represent 91.1 percent of all retail sales and that most of their money comes when shoppers are within their four walls.Kohl’s ceo Kevin Mansell talked up “traffic momentum” for the second quarter and said that although foot fall was “slightly negative” that “improvement in traffic was the driver of the improved performance in sales.” Kohl’s comparable sales went from down 2.7 percent in the first quarter to off just 0.4 percent in the second quarter.“The fundamental message I'm giving is the improvement in our sales trend was driven entirely by an improvement in traffic,” the ceo told Wall Street analysts. “And I think we believe that's going to continue. You can look at all these other numbers monthly, weekly, forward-looking, backward-looking, but it's about traffic. And so we've got to get traffic positive. We do that, there's a lot of good things coming.”Of course, the intense desire to drive traffic can also lead retailers into a dangerous territory.“There's been a conscious investment in lower prices over the last few months,” said Pete Madden, a director in AlixPartner’s retail practice. “It's starting to pay off with the higher traffic, but there's risk, too. Retailers need to be careful not to go too far and erode their brand and margin."Target said the number of transactions in the second quarter grew 2.1 percent, but was offset by a 0.7 percent decline in the average ticket amount, leading to a 1.3 percent comp-sales increase.Mark Tritton, chief merchandising officer and executive vice president at Target, assured analysts: “At first glance, reporting a slight decline in average ticket might not sound like good news, but when it's more than offset by an increase in traffic, the picture is more positive. As we dig into the drivers, the change in basket reflected two key factors. The first was a reduction in general incentive offers, which were replaced with better daily-value pricing and more category-focused discounts. The second was a meaningful increase in the number of quick trips and fill-in trips we saw from our guests.”Simple mathematics might also be driving traffic gains: There are fewer stores.Retailers from Macy’s Inc. to J.C. Penney Co. Inc. to Guess Inc. and Abercrombie Fitch & Co. have been closing doors en masse, winnowing down the brick-and-mortar base to stronger locations that have the potential to gain.Fung Global Retail & Technology projected 9,452 store closings this year, up 53 percent from the doors that went dark during the Great Recession in 2008.
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews