Merchandising Know-How: Smart Retail

One way I keep up with what's happening at retail is through my online subscription to the National Retail Federation's NRF SmartBrief. Each day I receive an update on articles dealing specifically with retail issues that have appeared in a variety of print, broadcast and online media.
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One way I keep up with what's happening at retail is through my online subscription to the National Retail Federation's NRF SmartBrief. Each day I receive an update on articles dealing specifically with retail issues that have appeared in a variety of print, broadcast and online media. Recent topics have included "Retailer websites battle traffic problems" from Forbes magazine and "Predictions for marketing in 2007" from MSNBC. I like reading about which companies are opening new stores, what retail and marketing strategies are being practiced by the "big boys," and how retail is performing in general.

I recently downloaded the NRF 2006 Holiday Survival Kit from the site. I'm a sucker for stats and this kit had plenty to satisfy my cravings. Did you know that 1999 was the year of the highest holiday sales increase in the last decade, or that 2002 had the lowest holiday sales increase in the last decade? Fascinating! I was interested in the fact that holiday sales make up 32.5 percent of annual jewelry store sales. In contrast, holiday sales in sporting goods stores make up 24.1 percent of annual store sales. Last year, three in four women shopped at a discount store for holiday merchandise. Wow!

I always wait until the last minute to start my Christmas shopping, but 40 percent of everyone else started shopping before Halloween last year. Imagine that! I'm joined by 4.8 percent of shoppers frantically shopping the last two weeks of December. Thirty-four percent of shoppers paid by debit or check card last year. Only 9 percent paid by check and 28 percent paid by check or cash.

If you have an online business, you might be interested to know what holiday shoppers consider the most important factors when making their buying decisions. Free shipping is far and away the most important, followed by unique products, broad product selection and low everyday price. Online shopping gains more converts every year. Last year, 73.4 percent of consumers shopped online spending $82 billion. The 2006 full-year online growth forecast is $102 billion.

One of the more unfortunate results of large holiday shopper crowds is the increase in shoplifting. But it's still the employees who steal the most. They accounted for 47.6 percent of all shoplifters and for losses of $17 billion in 2004. With these stats in hand, retailers can compare their performance with businesses in other segments of the market and see how they measure up.

Don't wait. Check out the 2006 Holiday Survival Kit at www.smartbrief.com/nrf and sign up for the free daily newsletter, SmartBrief. By keeping abreast of what's going on in the larger retail world, you'll feel smarter -- I guarantee it!

Sharon Leicham is the author of "Merchandising Your Way to Success" and "How to Sell to Women" and is a regular columnist for SNEWS® and GearTrends® magazines writing on merchandising and marketing topics. You can access all of her columns by going to www.snewsnet.com/merchandising, where you will find tons of information targeted at the needs of the independent specialty retailer. You can email Sharon with questions and comments at sharon@merchandisinghub.com.

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