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RILA has a word on union contract negotiations

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Kelly Kolb, VP government affairs of the Arlington, Virginia-based Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), made a statement on behalf of the organization regarding union contract negotiations at West Coast ports.

With the deadline to resolve the negotiations drawing near, RILA said its priority was to avoid work stoppage and to keep supply chains functioning as usual.

"The window to resolve the contract negotiations is rapidly closing," she said. "Failure to secure a deal by the June 30 deadline would be particularly undesirable to the retail community as it jeopardizes the movement of goods destined for shelves during the all-important back-to-school and upcoming holiday seasons. Undertaking all the essential measures to avoid work stoppages and strikes that halt the supply chain should be the top priority."

Kolb added that the organization was hoping to avoid a similar fallout as the work stoppage of 2002, during which the American economy lost nearly $1 billion per day.

"In light of those memories, many retailers have taken stock of the uncertain labor situation at the West Coast ports and have implemented contingency plans to preserve the reliability of their supply chains," she continued. "Some of our members advise that they are beginning to reroute shipments through other channels, taking advantage of more stable routes that became essential during the protracted disputes of 2002."

"As both sides understand, modifications to the massive supply chain plans of the retail industry take time to implement and even longer to undo. The importance of preserving reliable channels for retail supply chains cannot be understated," she concluded.

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The 2014 HCN Industry Scoreboard

BY HBSDEALER Staff

(Click the image for a larger version.)

 

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Winning the customer’s business

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Nothing about this business is the same as it was just a few years ago, and nothing has changed more than the shopper. Customers today think differently, their expectations are unique, and they are highly engaged in the shopping process.

Fortune Brands Home and Security, a manufacturer of home fixtures and hardware, recently sponsored a survey of shoppers in the cabinet category to better understand the marketplace and how it’s changing. With the help of Inmar Analytics — a behavioral research group — here are a few things that were discovered:

1. Shoppers heavily research cabinets prior to purchase.

Shoppers are researching every aspect of their cabinet project. They are using, on average, 12 sources of information in their decision-making, more than the 11 sources used on average for banking/insurance shoppers. They’ve been to every website that might help them — several times. They’re watching design videos, participating in online DIY forums and cruising the blogosphere. They’re talking with professional contractors and friends. They are also reading product reviews — and reviews about anyone, and everyone, who might be part of the project.

Nearly 1-in-5 shoppers in the cabinet category are taking more than a year to make a decision. At the same time, more than 157o of shoppers decide in less than a month — but these shoppers are still doing their homework.

Providing the content that shoppers are looking for increases their confidence in their purchase decision. To help drive purchases, marketers need to be sure they’re providing dynamic, relevant content.

2. Shoppers have formed an impression before they come to do business.

After all the research, their visit may be intended to finalize an earlier pre-trip decision and make a final choice. But marketers shouldn’t take for granted a potential positive pre-meeting impression. Shoppers forced to endure a bad in-store experience aren’t likely to return.

Shoppers are seeking out professionals. The more experts engage, the greater and more immediate impact they will have on the shoppers’ purchase decisions.

The sales floor is the ultimate “chat window.” It should be leveraged that way with expertise demonstrated first — salesmanship second. Information equals influence. Providing plenty of the former will deliver the latter.

3. Shoppers still see the retail space as the place to be.

For all their time in cyberspace, shoppers place very high value on their time in the store, and research shows multiple sources of in-store influencers. Displays should be up to date, the brochure inventory needs to be solid, and samples have to be plentiful and readily accessible.

Also, as online retailers have focused on creating a personalized and pleasurable shopping experience, consumers have come to expect that same kind of informative and enjoyable interaction offline, as well. Face time with shoppers is an opportunity for marketers to help them in ways that online sellers can’t. The conversation should be about service and product quality. Demonstrating the unique ability to facilitate the project is the best way to get on a shopper’s “favorites” list.

4. Shoppers are sharing more than ever.

And not just selfies. They’re telling everyone about their shopping and project experience, and they’re naming names. Nearly 30% of shoppers in the category are sharing digitally, blogging, commenting, pinning or posting throughout the Internet. Pictures, plans, problems and positives — all of these are being broadcast, and potentially thousands of people are seeing them.

Of course, no one can control what shoppers tell the world when it comes to their interactions with those in the industry. Still, marketers need to be very aware that shoppers are going to share their stories, and what they say will ultimately influence other shoppers. The extent of that influence will, most definitely, reveal itself in time.

Today’s shoppers are a new breed: They are assertive, well-informed and tech savvy. The “to do” list for securing their signatures includes effectively leveraging technology, providing an optimal in-store experience and delivering real value beyond just price. It’s not a long list, but nothing on it is optional.

Contributors: Michael Billings, director of insights and strategy, Fortune Brands a Home and Security Company; Beth Dibert, senior manager market research, MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc.; InMar Analytics.

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