Consider this the just-before-NRF quick version of the BRRR. We’re keeping it short enough that you can read it between the time you get in your airline seat and the time the flight deck tells you to power down your phone.
NRF echo chamber
First, we turn to us, and our advance coverage of NRF’s Big Show, because we really do like sound of our own voice.
It’s definitely an interesting time for everyone who is anyone in retail to be getting together to talk about how they can do what they do better. The retail news has been bleak of late, though admittedly it’s been dominated by department store news and department stores find themselves in a very tough spot.
Amazon, niche players and discount stores have been eating their lunch. At NRF 2016, they had the unseasonably warm winter to blame for sluggish sales. (People don’t buy warm clothes when it’s warm out.) This year, that’s no excuse, as your mother used to say.
A few interesting factoids from that Bloomberg story linked above:
- Last month, when retail sales overall were up 4.4 percent, department store sales were down 7.2 percent.
- That monthly decline in the department store sector was the 23d in a row. That’s nearly two years, people.
- The portion of all retail sales online in the third quarter hit its highest percentage yet: 8.4 percent.
- Perhaps more striking: The percentage of all retail sales online in 1999 was 0.6 percent. Sure, the internet was just getting started, but it’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in so little time.
With luck, those working to turn their brick-and-mortar retail operations around will find some inspiration at NRF — or at least an understanding shoulder to cry on.
If you’d prefer to think about the old days, here’s a photo essay from NRF 2016.
Speakers predict the retail future
Did we mention that NRF’s Big Show is coming up? We know, enough with NRF. But this is a perfect piece for those few minutes or many minutes you’re sitting on the plane at the gate, hoping that door closes before someone comes for the now-empty middle seat between you and the window passenger. NRF had speakers at the event tell them what 2017 would be all about when it comes to retail.
It turns out it’s going to be a good year for customers, which makes sense, since they spend the money. Most of the answers in the NRF SlideShare have to do with building a better customer experience something that’s alway been important, but which has taken on a greater importance in the era of the empowered consumer.
Have a look.
Lowe’s rejiggers workforce, to use the technical term
So, falling somewhere between item one (department store woes) and item two (emphasis on customer experience), comes news of Lowes’ layoff (less than 1 percent of workforce). It’s a reminder that the retail transformation is far from painless.
But to view the Lowe’s move as only a cost-cutting move would be to short-change the significance of the story. The cuts are part of a rethinking of the way Lowe’s does business, particularly when it comes to dealing with customers.
The idea in shifting employees around, the CNBC story says, is to free up people to spend more face time with customers. The story calls the strategy doubling down on Lowe’s efforts to serve customers both in-store and online.
Lowe’s had already announced that it would spend about $1.6 billion on new stores and technology in the next couple of years to improve its customers’ shopping experience.
The CNBC story also answers a question the BRRR had, which is this: We thought home improvement stores were rocking it, given the way the stronger economy is fueling home purchases and remodels. So, what gives?
It turns out, the story says, Lowe’s has been doing well. Same-store sales have been up for 14 straight quarters. The problem? The growth has not been as strong as competitor Home Depot in six of the last eight quarters, CNBC says.
That fact apparently has contributed to Lowe’s stock price sliding.
Quote of the week
“This generation also has a lot of influence beyond their own wallets. They also have influence on family spending beyond their own wallets.” — Jay Henderson, of IBM, telling MediaPost regarding the company’s study that found 67 percent of 13 to 21 year olds do most of their shopping in physical stores.
Photos by Mike Cassidy
Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.