Posted tagged ‘NPD Group’

Retailers Catering To Late Night Shoppers

December 22, 2008

Macy’s, Toys R Us and H&M are just a handful of retailers aiming to appeal to night owls during this holiday season. The chains will stay open 24 hours at select locations, hoping to capture last-minute shoppers.

From the Wall Street Journal:

At 4 a.m. Saturday, while most people in the city that never sleeps were nevertheless sleeping, Camille Joseph was wandering the aisles of Toys “R” Us in New York’s Times Square.

Saying she hates crowds, the 37-year-old Ms. Joseph was thrilled to be able to finish her shopping when no one was around. Surrounded by packages filled with a dollhouse, videogames and a robot, she sprawled on the floor next to a cash register. “Could you imagine being able to do this during the day?” said Ms. Joseph, who by day is a manager at Starbucks.

Starting this past Friday and continuing until 8 p.m. Christmas Eve, Toys “R” Us is embracing procrastinators, night owls and curiosity seekers by keeping its New York flagship — billed as the world’s largest toy store — open continuously for 134 hours.

In the final countdown of one of the worst holiday retail seasons in decades, more retailers have extended hours and are staying open for 24-hour periods or more in a last-ditch effort to capture sales. Macy’s Inc., L.L. Bean International, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Hennes & Mauritz AB’s H&M chain added extreme hours at select locations this year, they said, as a way to enhance customer service, reduce congestion and compete for last-minute sales.

“In this kind of environment, you do whatever it takes,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Snowstorms across the country during the last shopping weekend before Christmas are expected to make the already-dismal retail season even worse, some retailers said. Numbers weren’t available Sunday, but ShopperTrak RCT Corp. said that the final weekend before Christmas typically accounts for 11.5% of holiday sales. Last year, Super Saturday brought in $8.7 billion in retail sales. Retail sales for the six weeks to Dec. 13 are down 2% from a year earlier.

Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market researcher NPD Group, has been visiting malls in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia since Friday. He said “traffic was on par with last year,” but noticed fewer purchases per person. “Last year, people couldn’t carry their bags out of stores,” he said. “This year, half the shoppers had one hand free.”

Kathleen Waugh, a spokeswoman for Toys “R” Us, said it was premature to say whether the benefits of keeping the Times Square store open continuously outweighed the costs. “We will evaluate its success once the event is over at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve,” she said.

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KB Toys Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

December 12, 2008

KB Toys has filed for bankruptcy protection and plans to close its 277 mall-based stores and 114 outlets. In its Chapter 11 filings, the chain blamed “sudden and sharp decline in consumer sales due to macro-economic concerns.”

From the Associated Press:

In another sign of the grim holiday season, KB Toys filed for bankruptcy protection for the second time in four years on Thursday and plans to begin going-out-of business sales at its stores immediately.

The 86-year-old company said in a filing that its debt is “directly attributable to a sudden and sharp decline in consumer sales” because of the poor economy.

That a toy retailer filed for bankruptcy just before Christmas shows how bleak things have become, since such stores make up to half of their sales during the holidays. But analysts expect toy sales this holiday season to be flat or down slightly from last year’s total of $10.4 billion, according to market research firm NPD Group, because consumers are cutting back amid the recession.

In response, toy retailers, including KB Toys, amped up their discounts.

KB Toys had aggressively cut prices to entice cash-strapped shoppers, offering hundreds of toys for $10 or less. It also expanded its value program, which offers deals on new items each week, and offered “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” promotions.

But the deals weren’t enough. In the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, KB Toys said that between Oct. 5 and Dec. 8 sales in stores open at least one year, a key retail metric known as same-store sales, fell nearly 20 percent.

The company said it considered its alternatives and decided the most viable way to cover its debt was to begin liquidating its stores via immediate going-out-of-business sales. KB Toys also plans to sell its wholesale distribution business, according to the filing.

Apple: Let’s Rock!

September 9, 2008

Apple is expected to unveil some new upgrades to its popular line of iPod music players at an event today in San Francisco, ahead of the Christmas shopping buzz.

From the International Business Times:

The Cupertino-based company is being tight-lipped about what’s going to be announced, but many industry analysts predict the company is going to unveil new iPods and lower prices for some of its digital music players.

The event, titled “Lets Rock”, will make it the fourth year in a row that Apple has held an event focused on its popular iPod in September.

“We anticipate a modestly redesigned 4th-generation iPod Nano and slimmer 2nd-generation iPod Touch, with lower price points and higher storage capacities,” said Shaw Wu, an industry analyst with American Technology Research. “New Macs (are) not likely at this event,”

However, “radical changes in the iPod portfolio” are unlikely, he noted.

Apple may also make some announcements about new software. “Very often when the hardware gets revised, we see a new version of iTunes,” the company’s online music service, said Ross Rubin of NPD Group, a market research firm.

Apple has sold over 100 million iPods since the wildly popular device first became available in 2001, while rival Microsoft in May announced that it has sold over 2 million Zune devices since the product was released in late 2006.

From CNET:

As today’s Apple event gets underway and journalists from all over the world are waiting on bated breath to see what Steve Jobs has to say, it’s abundantly clear that the vast majority of people going and those that read the news, will be disappointed.

No, it’s not because Apple will waste time or that all those people are Windows fanboys and want nothing to do with Apple. Instead, it’s because Apple, unlike every other company in the technology industry, has created such a hype machine that unless it offers something major like a touch-screen Mac or a new iPhone, it’ll disappoint even the most giddy fanboy.

See, the problem with Apple’s success is that it’s expected to keep up with it. How many times has the company announced a press event, carted Steve Jobs onto stage, who then announced a few minor upgrades, only to see less than shining press opinions later on because it wasn’t “newsworthy” enough? Probably more times than we can count.

Apple’s success over the past few years has revolved around these press events. The company has consistently made huge announcements at Macworld and other assorted locales over the years. But in recent years, it hasn’t. Not because it’s failing to release good products, but because it’s so difficult to create and release groundbreaking products every few months.

But it’s Apple’s fault that all this happened. The company is big on these events and it does its best to build up the hype around each of them. I can’t blame it – it’s in the business of good coverage and big profits and the best way to do that is to build up some serious hype.

But because it relies on these events so much, the very thing that makes it successful is also becoming a problem. How can you satisfy the press and make sure that they continue building the hype, while ensuring that the right products are made available at the right time? After all, doesn’t Apple have a responsibility to its shareholders first?