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The latest figures from the British Retail Consortium and Springboard in their monthly footfall monitor show a 2 percent drop in foot fall to the UK’s stores.

According to the Retail Bulletin shopping centres saw a significant drop from 1 percent in September to 3 percent in October, with Greater London the only region to experience positive growth for the sector.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “Both high streets and shopping centres are clearly under pressure, with footfall during retail trading hours dropping by more than 3 percent in each. And the fact that retail park footfall slipped into negative territory – even during daytime hours - whilst prior to November recording seven consecutive months of growth, is definitive evidence of consumers tightening their purse strings.”

Overall, the sharpest decline in footfall in October occurred in Northern Ireland, down 6.5 percent Scotland, down 3.3 percent and the South West, down 3.1 percent.

Meanwhile, the East was the only region to show growth in October at 1 percent. Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “All shopping destinations saw shopper footfall ease back in October, which mirrors the month’s paltry sales performance. Even retail parks, which have continually bucked the trend until now, struggled to attract as many visitors as the previous year.”

Lord & Taylor is all set to launch a flagship store on Walmart.com in spring 2018. The partnership will see, Walmart.com introducing premium fashion brands directly from the Lord & Taylor flagship.

“Our goal is to create a premium fashion destination on Walmart.com,” said Denise Incandela, Head of Fashion, Walmart US Ecommerce in a statement, adding, “We see customers on our site searching for higher-end items, and we are expanding our business online to focus on adding specialized and premium shopping experiences, starting with fashion. We’re excited that Lord & Taylor is part of the team we’re working with as we continue to create a new Walmart.com.”

The company said that Lord & Taylor will have a dedicated store on Walmart.com and the Walmart app that will reflect the premium fashion it is known for, reaching out to more shoppers than it currently does through Lordandtaylor.com.

“As retail continues to change, this flagship store creates enormous growth opportunities for Lord & Taylor and our brand partners. Walmart.com is a shopping destination that reaches a wide base of customers looking for premium fashion brands. They are a great company for us to work with as we continue to grow our digital presence,” added Liz Rodbell, President of Lord & Taylor.

Walmart.com currently offers more than 60 million items on the site, compared to 20 million items last year. At the same time, Lord & Taylor continues to evolve its department store model, combining brick and mortar locations with online destinations for an exciting all-channel experience.

Shoppers to spend more than 10 billion pounds this Black Friday

London - Singles Day may have brought record-breaking sales of 25.3 billion US dollars for and 19.1 billion US dollars respectively for Chinese e-commerce giants Alibaba and JD.com last Friday, but with Black Friday around the corner, UK retailers are said to be preparing for their own record-breaking sales day. Shoppers are predicted to spend more than 10 billion pounds this Black Friday, as retailers across the nation participate in the discounting holiday.

Higher prices and increased retailer participation are the two main factors driving Black Friday spend this year, as total sales during the sales period is set to increase 3.8 percent according to GlobalData. Spend during the Black Friday period, which runs from Monday, November 20 to Sunday, November 27, is predicted to increase 3.8 percent year-on-year to 10.1 billion pounds, accounting for 10.4 percent of the total Q4 spend. Even though growth for Black Friday spend is forecast to slow year-on-year and footfall for the promotional shopping day is set to drop, the data analytic firm expects more retailers to participate in the sales event this year in an attempt to stimulate shoppers spend.

Shoppers to spend more than 10 billion pounds this Black Friday

Shoppers set to spend 10.1 billion pounds this Black Friday

Springboard predicts a 0.6 percent dip in footfall across the UK’s high streets, retail parks and shopping centres during this year’s Black Friday, as more household hold back on spend due to rising inflation, increasing interest rates and higher constraints on budgets, which put pressure on their disposable income. Although retail parks are expected to the sole exception to this decline, set to see a 0.1 percent increase year-on-year, this is linked to the rise of services such as click and collect, as well as the growing number of leisure opportunities offered at shopping centres.

Fashion retailers, such as Asos and Topshop, have been highlighted as some of the leading retailers set to drive spend in its sector, notes GlobalData. “While electricals have traditionally been the main focus of the event, over the past two years fashion retailers such as Asos and Topshop have improved their Black Friday offers, driving spend in this market,” commented Eleanor Parr, retail analyst at GlobalData. “Furthermore, health & beauty performed well in 2016, with department stores such as House of Fraser, Selfridges and John Lewis offering strong discounts on branded fragrances and cosmetics. Strong growth is expected in this sector in 2017 if these deals are replicated.”

But retailers be warned of offering discounts over an extended period

However, fashion retailers’ margins have been hit by strong inflation, which may have forced some retailers to increase prices to mitigate margin loss. This could see a number of retailers unable to offer the level of discount advertised in 2016, which may put off consumer spend, as they will feel less inclined to make a bargain purchase on impulse. “As a result, retailers will need to be creative with how they advertise Black Friday promotions this year, for example promoting multi-buy offers or free gifts with purchases if they cannot afford to offer large discounts,” added Parr. In addition to becoming more creative with Black Friday promotes, retailers will have to balance out their discounting as the traditional sales day has now been expanded to a sales period.

“A lower proportion of Black Friday spend will fall on the Friday. When Black Friday was first exported from the US to the UK the event promised impressive discounts for one day only. However, over time retailers have taken the opportunity to extend the event, both to encourage more consumers to participate but also to relieve operational pressures. In 2016, most retailers advertised their Black Friday deals as starting on the Friday and finishing on Cyber Monday, however Amazon took this further advertising a Black Friday sale running for 12 days between 14-25 November and has already highlighted its sale will run for at least 10 days this year. In 2017 we expect more retailers to extend their promotional calendars to include the whole week before Black Friday in an attempt to stimulate demand as they continue to struggle this quarter,” continue Parr.

Retailers including Debenhams and Gap already have sales on at the moment, with the department store chain offering discounts as high as 30 percent and Gap 40 percent. Although these sales offer may be appealing to shoppers, this early sale offer may lead to a dip in Black Friday sales, as customers are aware they can still buy a new outfit with discount over the next few weeks without having to braces the high street during Black Friday. “Furthermore, as more retailers advertise their Black Friday deals early, other players will be forced to participate to remain competitive. This is particularly tricky for retailers that price match, such as John Lewis, which will have no choice but to bring down prices early, impacting margins and stock levels. Retailers must prepare by ensuring they have the operational capacities to cope with an influx in trade over a sustained period.”

Photos: Pexels

Black Friday deals set to flood the market as more small retailers offer deals

UK shoppers across the nation are set to enjoy more Black Friday deals this year, as close to a quarter of small retailers are aiming to participate in the discounting event this year across to new research.

Data from YouGov has found that 23 percent of small retail businesses are looking to participate in Black Friday this year, an increase from the 14 percent which participated last year. 35 percent of small business say that Black Friday is one of their most important days trading every year, with up to 82 percent of the participants expecting to sell more items on Black Friday than on an average day.

Amazon Marketplace prepares for 'record-breaking' Black Friday

In particular, small businesses selling their goods through Amazon Marketplace are said to be preparing for a 'record-breaking Black Friday' and will be offering deep discounts on thousands of gifts, fashion items and accessories throughout Amazon's Black Friday sale event. The online giant's Black Friday sale, which is set to run from midnight on Friday, November 17 to one minute to midnight on Sunday, November 26, will include 'Deals of Day' as well as 'Lightning Deals', items available at a discount in limited quantities for a short period of time.

“We know customers love wide selection and great deals, so we’re glad to see so many of our Marketplace sellers participating in Black Friday,” said Katie McQuaid, Director of Seller Services UK. “Customers now have the opportunity to support British small businesses by discovering unique products at a great price during our Black Friday Sales event, and we’re thrilled to support their continued growth.”

In order to help promote the growing number of small British business taking part in Black Friday, Amazon has launched a dedicated page at www.amazon.co.uk/smallbizblackfriday, after YouGov research found that smaller retailers believe Black Friday would be even more of a success for them if customers were able to find their deals more easily online. Amazon is currently featuring six small local businesses on its dedicated page which include Shearer Candles, Lavolio, Gamely, Luxelu, One Retail Group and iQualTech.

“Black Friday has grown for us year on year, and it’s helped us to grow our business by increasing sales and reaching new customers," said Gayle Hunter, founder and director at Luxelu, her own brand of lifestyle and beauty products. Hunter first participated in Black Friday last year, during which the brand saw an increase of 300 percent on its standard sales. "We’re expecting this year to be bigger and better than ever before, with more customers discovering our products, helping to build our brand in the UK and across Europe.”

Tens of thousands of British businesses sell their goods online via Amazon Marketplace, supporting more than 74,000 jobs. Over 60 percent of these businesses export their products to customers around the globe, with export sales surpassing 1.8 billion pounds last year. Small British businesses on Amazon Marketplace reportedly achieved tens of millions of pounds in sales during Amazon's Black Friday sales last year.

Photo: Black Friday deal page on Amazon Marketplace

German footwear brand Birkenstock has confirmed that it is to open its UK flagship on Neal Street in London’s Seven Dials in Covent Garden this autumn.

The 1,100 square foot store, located over two floors, will mark Birkenstock’s first brand-owned flagship store in the UK, and will house the brand’s sandals for men, women and children.

Birkenstock is a sixth-generation family-run business with roots that can be traced back to 1774 and is known for selecting materials from sustainable sources for its footwear including 100 percent natural and renewable cork that makes up the unique footbed in each shoe and sandal.

Sam Bain-Mollison, head of retail at Shaftesbury, said: “The fully branded Birkenstock store will have the largest range of products in the capital, making it a must-see for fans of the popular brand, as well as other shoppers, providing them with a store unique to Seven Dials.”

The Seven Dials area comprises of Monmouth Street, Earlham Street, Neal Street, Shorts Gardens, Neal’s Yard, Endell Street, Shelton Street, and Mercer Street and is home to more than 150 shops.

The Council of Fashion Designers America (CFDA) has announced that designer Prabal Gurung has moved into the CFDA Retail Lab, the brick-and-mortar retail space at Cadillac House.

The move coincides with the CFDA confirming the next four designer brands that will take part in the mentorship programme, which provides the fashion designers a real-world education in retail, including the opportunity to sell within the rotating physical retail space.

The 2018 Retail Lab shops, which will operate for three months each, will be Title of Work, Dannijo, Rosetta Getty and Rachel Zoe.

They follow in the footsteps of Timo Weiland, Cushnie et Ochs, Public School, Tanya Taylor, and Pamela Love, who have all utilised the retail shop this year, with Gurung taking over the shop for the holiday season. He is selling his autumn/winter 2017 collection, as well as an array of skincare products in partnership with belif, and hand crafted artisanal products from his home in Nepal.

“The selected 2018 Retail Lab designers are a diverse group of American fashion designers with a unique brand story to tell,” said Ashley Sandall, director of Strategic Partnerships for the CFDA. “With Cadillac’s continued support, these designers are able to grow their businesses while receiving valuable resources as they consider opening their owned retail stores.”

Nathan Tan, associate director of brand partnerships and experiences at Cadillac, added: “Retail Lab is the full embodiment of our brand’s commitment to fashion and Cadillac House’s mission to curate ever-changing programming for the community, beyond automotive.

“We are proud to provide this year’s class of designers with a blank canvas to experiment with as a physical extension of their brand and look forward to seeing what they each create.”

The Retail Lab is located within Cadillac House at 330 Hudson Street in New York and is supported by way of store fixtures provided by Alu, mannequins from DK Display, hangers from Henry Hangers and technology and retail business solutions from Prism, Axis and KWI.

Bluewater trials online shopping portal

Bluewater shopping centre in Kent is trailing a new online shopping portal featuring more than one million items from its retailers as part of owner Landsec’s strategy of using technology to enhance the guest experience across its portfolio of retail and leisure destinations.

The online portal is non-transactional and allows customers to research particular products or product categories, seek alternatives and purchase for delivery or collection at Bluewater, through redirects to the retailer’s own websites. In addition, the portal also helps shoppers find the location of the stores.

The trial is part of Landsec’s strategy of using technology to enhance guest experience and it is hoping that the portal will create additional means by which guests can interact with its destinations when not physically there, reflecting their position as lifestyle brands.

Bluewater trials online shopping portal

Landsec launches online shopping portal trial for Bluewater

Ailish Christian-West, head of shopping centres at Bluewater owner Landsec, said: “Our priority at Landsec is providing guests with a unique experience, one that complements their needs and aspirations.

“Whilst nothing quite beats the physical experience of visiting one of our retail and leisure destinations, the new shopping portal reflects how people are increasingly living their lives. Our guests can now move seamlessly between the physical and virtual worlds to make purchases and enjoy experiences."

Landsec has launched a series of innovations across its portfolio with the aim of enhancing its guest experience. Earlier this year, the company introduced guest experience measurement tools and analysis across its portfolio in partnership with Service Management Group, following a successful pilot over three years at Bluewater.

Utilising voluntary online surveys, real time analysis of results and instant messaging of key findings, the technology is being used by Landsec to understand guests’ responses to events, new guest experience initiatives, and the wider retailer experience at each asset.

Images: courtesy of Bluewater/Landsec

Singles Day breaks all records - again

Happy faces at Chinese online giant Alibaba: the inventor of Singles Day as a commercial event (now officially called “Global Shopping Festival“) announces ever increasing sales on 11th November each year; the sky seems the limit. Last year's record of 120.7 billion yuan (17.8 billion US dollars) was broken by midday on Saturday and increased by 48 billion yuan to reach a staggering 168.3 billion yuan (25.3 billion US dollars) by the end of the day.

The first hour of the mega event between midnight and 1 o'clock was key, accounting for goods sold worth 9.9 billion US dollars, almost half of all sales. Accordingly, Alipay, the group's electronic payment system, was running at full speed: at peak times, about five minutes past midnight, it handled 256,000 transactions per second, the company said, twice as many as during peak times in the previous year.

Alibaba calls and everyone joins in

Given the deep discounts offered not only by Alibaba but anyone, including competitors such as JD.com, many Chinese customers wait for Singles Day to fulfill their annual needs, for example when it comes to creams, toothpaste, soaps and other durable goods. But clothing and electronics such as air conditioning, microwaves and electric shavers were also sought after. According to Alibaba, 92 percent of all purchases were made by smartphone, cementing China's position as the world's undisputed number one in m-commerce.

Singles Day breaks all records - again

Following its motto “retail as entertainment”, Alibaba celebrated in style - first on the eve of the event with a television gala with celebrities such as Alibaba boss Jack Ma, singer Pharrell Williams, Hollywood star Nicole Kidman and Chinese actress Fan Bingbing. Then, on Sunday, with a huge party in Shanghai, processing 24 hours of continuous stress, 812 million orders (657 million in 2016), 15 million listed products and 140,000 brand partners.

Alibaba counts on consumer engagement and brand building

But it is not only about sales but also consumer engagement and brand building, both of which Alibaba achieved. “I’ve talked with a lot of brand partners, and all of them recognize the importance of good sales. But more importantly, they know 11.11 isn’t just about sales. It’s about consumer engagement and brand-building,” explains Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang. “Success on 11.11 comes because every participant contributes the best resources, the best products and the best services to customers on that day.”

Singles Day was launched by Alibaba as a commercial event in 2009, having no connection to the marital status of its customers. The day is named after the single digits in its date, 11.11, which was used as an alternative to Valentine's Day by Chineses students since the early '90s, celebrating their single status through karaoke parties and exchanging gifts.

Alibaba capitalised on the commercial aspect and incentivised gift giving through deep discounts. Now, China's students are busy shopping online on Singles Day, thus boosting the country's economy. And indeed, increased domestic consumption has made up for spending from abroad, which has been declining, leading to the Chinese economy growing by 6.9 percent in the first three quarters of the year. And other countries like the United States and the UK are only too eager to emulate Singles Day to reap its success in their own markets.

Photos: Alibaba
Mamas & Papas unveil new content-driven website

British maternity retailer has launched its renewed website which offers users content-driven online experience.

The new website has been designed to offer users the same service Mamas & Papas offers in its physical stores and includes useful information, tips and tricks for parents-to-be and existing parents. As part of its focus on content, the retailer has teamed up with a number of experts, including bloggers Anna Tizard and Lydia Barron, founders of Tiba & Marl, who share advice on a wide range of topics such as wellbeing and nutrition.

The site includes more focus on editorial content under a new dedicated section to help guide customers 'through pregnancy and beyond', as well as more information on its products under the 'Why Buy Me' section to help parents with their bigger purchases. Mamas & Papas renewed site launch is part of the retailer' s digital transformation to help boost its online sales and comes after the appointment of global digital & marketing director Neil Sumner.

“Our customer has different wants and needs at key stages throughout their parenthood journey and we wanted to ensure we are interacting with them – whether through their research or their shopping experience," said Julie Austin, Head of Digital in a statement. “Creation of the new ‘Discover’ content, increased video visibility, enhanced furniture and travel showroom experience on fully responsive templates were building blocks to extending our best in class store experience. This is step one for us on an enhanced international roadmap for all our channels.”

Photo: Mamas & Papas website