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Saturday, 31 December 2011

Social media spur sales for independent retailers


Personal shopper Autumn Riggle, 33, of Ferndale positions merchandise at Tender in Birmingham on Thursday. The store used Twitter to promote a sale on tights and "We sold out thousands of pairs in a few days," co-owner Cheryl Daskas said. 




Cheryl and Karen Daskas, owners of the upscale Tender boutique in Birmingham, were trying to find a way to draw their social-media friends into the store this year.
So they created an offer. They would sell their private-label Tender tights for $15 a pair -- a bargain at a store that sells $1,500 messenger bags and $300 designer dresses.
"We sold out thousands of pairs in a few days," Cheryl Daskas said. "Blasting it on Twitter really drove it home. It was a lot of fun."
Using social media such as Twitter and Facebook to drive retail sales was a budding trend this year that is expected to grow exponentially in 2012. It is especially meaningful to independent retailers without large advertising budgets.
Other big retail trends on the horizon include continued momentum in shopping locally, increased use of smartphones by retailers and consumers, the growth of online sales and greater use of consumer data by retailers to boost sales.
The area, which will lose at least six Sears and Kmart stores in 2012 on top of the more than two dozen Borders stores that closed this year and some still-vacant Circuit City and other big box stores won't likely see a lot of new retail building, said Joan Primo, principal of Sylvan Lake-based Strategic Edge and retail real estate consultant.
"There is no single growth category. There is no big chain that is opening a lot of stores now that is an obvious candidate to take those locations," she said. "I think it will be treading water. The growth you will see is in the redevelopment area rather than big new developments. I think you are going to see retailers being cautious right now."
Ed Nakfoor, a Birmingham-based retail consultant who works with some independent retailers such as Tender, said he thinks we'll see more infill development in open retail spots.
"I think we will see stores tweaking their footprint to fit certain neighborhoods," he said.
Meanwhile, retailers will try to push growth in new areas. The rise of retailer applications or apps for smartphones also is expected to intensify in 2012, Primo said. Retailers can use the apps to distribute discounts to shoppers, let them know about a sale item and sell products.
"You see people doing a lot of comparison shopping with them," she said. "Somewhat because of smartphone apps, you've got a lot of fluidity between the customer and the store and the retailer's website."
According to ComScore data, 91.4 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones during the three months ending in November, up 8% from the preceding three-month period. ComScore is a Reston, Va., digital analytics company.
Downloaded applications were used by 44.9% of subscribers, while browsers were used by 44.4%. Accessing of social networking sites or blogs increased 2.1% to 33% of mobile subscribers, ComScore said.
In a recent survey of holiday shoppers, Deloitte found that 21% of consumers said they planned to buy something for the holiday from their smartphones, said Mark Davidoff, managing partner for Deloitte's Michigan operations.
Add to that data analytics and retailers have new areas of potential growth despite a still sluggish economy that may not recover until well into 2012. Data analytics is a practice of taking a multitude of data such as demographics and where you click on the Web and analyzing it to predict behavior.
That approach could help convert sales at a time when disposable incomes for the average person are lower than a year ago.
Consumers are stuck in neutral and worried about gas prices, the national debt, European economic issues, the upcoming presidential election and job insecurity.
"I think that unless there is some extraordinary change, we will continue to see a guarded perspective on the economy and whole retail spectrum," Davidoff said
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