Retailers focusing inward on green issues
U.S. retailers are growing impatient with a lack of sales of eco-friendly products, according to a recent survey, and are focusing instead on their own sustainability efforts. This was the conclusion of “Lean and Green: How Sustainable Practices Are Changing Retail, Benchmark 2010,” a report put out by RSR Research in partnership with the National Retail Federation.
The survey, which involved 95 retailers, was conducted in the fall of 2010.
“When it comes to consumer demand, we definitely saw a certain amount of impatience,” said Nikki Baird, a managing partner at RSR Research and co-author of the report. “Winning retailers — those that outperform their peers in year over year sales — are particularly challenged by a lack of consumer demand for greener products.”
The report found an increased willingness among retailers to invest in store-based green initiatives, such as increasing energy efficiency and reducing waste in stores.
“We saw a real opportunity for retailers to do more to educate consumers about the things they’re doing in other areas of the business — things that ultimately benefit consumers in their own neighborhoods,” Baird said.
Based in Miami, RSR Research is an analyst firm providing market intelligence on retail technology trends.
Researchers see demand opening for windows and doors
After falling 4% annually since 2004, demand for windows and doors is forecast to rise 6.6% per year to $31.2 billion in 2014, according to a study from The Freedonia Group.
Although housing completions will remain below the level reached at their cyclical peak in 2006, the recovery in new home construction will fuel above-average gains in the residential market for windows and doors through 2014,” according to a Cleveland-based Freedonia Group statement promoting its “Windows & Doors” study.
Plastic windows and doors — including vinyl, fiberglass or wood-plastic composites — will see the most rapid growth, increasing more than 10% per year, according to Freedonia. One reason is that improvements in processing techniques have enabled manufacturers to make less-costly, more-efficient fiberglass doors that look more and more like real wood.
Meanwhile, demand for wood windows and doors is forecast to rise 7.2% per year to $10.9 billion in 2014.
Here is the breakdown by category of annual growth through 2014:
Metal, 4.3% Wood, 7.2% Plastic, 10.2% Total, 6.6%
Lowe’s executives unveil digital moves
Sales at Lowes.com are running about 35% ahead of last year, according to CEO Robert Niblock, who spoke to analysts during the retailer’s recent Analyst and Investors Conference. Still, the Mooresville, N.C.-based home improvement giant has ideas on how to improve its digital business.
Among the projects to advance that goal are a mobile app to help customers buy product from their mobile devices. Lowe’s executives said the company is adding at least 1,200 additional SKUs to the site each week. (It has more than 110,000 SKUs online currently.)
The lowes.com website is important to the retailer not only as an outright revenue generator, but also as a sales driver. “A large portion of our total sales are influenced online,” said Larry Stone, Lowe’s president and COO.
In early 2011, the company will launch “ask and answer” functionality for all product categories on lowes.com. With this feature, according to Stone, customers asking product specific questions will “receive answers from a variety of sources — the lowes.com community, Lowe’s employees and manufacturers.”
The company has also enhanced its lowes.com in-store pickup guarantee — instead of 30 minutes, orders will be ready in 20 minutes. To promote the change, the company’s web site promotes the slogan: “Shop. Click. Pick up. 20 minutes guaranteed.”
The moves reflect an increasingly multi-channel world.
“We cannot operate as independent sales channels because customers are not shopping that way,” said Stone. “They’re shopping at Lowe’s, wheter that includes a single store, multiple stores, lowes.com, over the phone or an in-home selling expericence.”