After weeks of declines, retail weekly sales popped up for the period ended March 25.
The Retail Economist-Goldman Sachs (TRE-GS) Weekly Chain Store Sales Index rose 3.3 percent compared to the prior week. And on a year-over-year basis, sales gained 1.5 percent. The gains followed five consecutive weeks of declines.
Michael P. Niemira, chief economist of The Retail Economist, LLC, said the “outsized sequential week-over-week change for the period ending March 25 followed an extended period of weakness that extended more than a month. Although the weekly sales jump was impressive on the surface, the volume of the latest week’s sales essentially only recovered to its mid-February level.”
The gain in sales comes at a time when retailers are pushing spring apparel merchandise sets. But analysts continue to cite headwinds in the retail sector that are adversely impacting sales, which include delayed tax refunds, the ongoing shift to e-commerce and the growth of the “experience economy.”
On that last note, analysts at Telsey Advisory Group said some of the key takeaways from last week’s Shoptalk even in Las Vegas include a concerted effort from retailers looking to deploy a “customer first approach via improving experience.”
“As lines blur between online and stores — companies are becoming increasingly focused on serving the customer first and enhancing the customer experience across all channels,” said Dana Telsey, chief research officer at the firm. “The increased focus on customers should help gain mind-share and ultimately translate to market share.”
Telsey said brands and retailers are turning to technology to support their strategies. “In today’s environment, brand development incorporates a new component, experience, beyond the traditional measures of product, place, price, and promotion,” Telsey said. “At Shoptalk, most companies shared strategies to improve customer experience via technologies that help understand core consumers and build loyal relationships. Features – such as personalized product suggestions, targeted marketing, product reviews, inventory availability, and new in-store technologies, such as the use of mobile checkout devices and beacons – are all aimed to satisfy the customer first.”
Some examples, the Telsey analysts noted, include Sephora’s Virtual Artist (an augmented reality app), which is done in partnership with ModiFace. And home goods retailer Williams-Sonoma is testing an augmented reality app, “with 3D room design and product visualization tools to enhance the shopping experience,” Telsey said.