Swinging into holiday sales
Listen to the clamor in the media and marketplace, and you might believe that the Grinch has already stolen the holiday season. But not everyone’s spirits are dampened.
“Despite the challenging consumer environment, we remain optimistic about this year’s holiday selling period,” True Value spokeswoman Chris Taylor said. True Value is helping its members drive business through several holiday promotions, including Ladies’ Night, a holiday open house and a special “24-percent-off on December 24” deal.
“We’re excited at the potential of the Ladies’ Night to bring in more female shoppers looking to take advantage of one-night-only sales and browse the stores,” Taylor said.
“The holiday open house will offer consumers a great shopping experience, complete with fun festivities and exclusive discounts on seasonal merchandise.”
Dave Haist, chief operating officer of Do it Best, also remained optimistic. He said that “despite the fact that the economy is in a state of flux,” sales to members between the fall market in October and early December were “reasonably good.” He also noted that there are still opportunities for retailers who are focusing on high-demand items, particularly technology driven products like Lithium-Ion tools, weather stations and wireless thermometers.
“People are out there and they’re shopping,” he said. “The stores that are providing them with the right products — and who are marketing them well — are having pretty good results.”
Haist also pointed to Christmas LED lights, which are energy efficient and continue to rise in popularity, as good sales drivers — especially for members who feature them in a holiday boutique or “Christmas store-within-a-store” setting. He sees LED lights as another example of technology inspiring consumers to open up their pocketbooks.
“We find that members who display them well in their stores are seeing activity,” Haist said. “Putting them out there so people can touch them, feel them, drives demand.”
Lowe’s, coming off a 24 percent decline in earnings for the third quarter, has been trying to draw in customers with a new ad campaign called “Let’s Holiday.” Featuring a boy having a “magical” time at a Lowe’s store, the ads focus on the shopping experience at Lowe’s rather than a value message. The retailer has also been promoting LED lights, offering specials on multiple packages of 50 or 100, and according to some reports, holiday decor items had already been discounted by 50 percent at Lowe’s stores by early December.
Home Depot has also cut prices on holiday decor, bundling items to be able to offer consumers better savings. For example, if an inflatable snowman had previously retailed for $59.99, the deal is now three lawn ornaments for $89.99. The retailer — already the nation’s largest seller of fresh-cut trees with sales of two million-plus trees projected for this season — presents “Gift Centers” featuring 15 different combinations of tool kits. Home Depot has also doubled its selection of LED lights — said to be up to 90 percent more efficient than incandescents — to more than 30 skus.
“We are positioned well in holiday products, including our expanded assortment of LED lighting,” Craig Menear, Home Depot’s senior vp-merchandising, told investors during last month’s third-quarter conference call. “Our gift centers have strong values in hand tool sets and power tools across varying price points, and we’re ready to serve the storage and organization needs of our customers following holidays.”
Menards put on hold in Ohio
Plans to build a new Menards store in Columbus, Ohio, have been delayed until economic conditions improve, according to an article in the Columbus Dispatch. The newspaper reported that the Eau Claire, Wis., chain of home improvement stores, which operates 11 stores in Ohio, will build the anchor store in Westland Mall, a mostly vacant shopping center that will be torn down and redeveloped.
The delay will affect a proposed 180,000-square-foot Menards store in another Columbus mall called Northland Village, according to the report. Menards plans to build several stores in the Columbus area at the same time so it can coordinate a marketing campaign around them, the newspaper said.
Chain store sales spiral down in November
U.S. chain store sales fell by a record 2.7 percent for November on a year-over-year same-store basis, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC).
“The November retail sales environment was an extremely difficult one with the backdrop of the recession and financial crisis still looming large in the economy,” said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC chief economist and director of research.
Niemira added that the poor start to the holiday season’s sales — even adjusting for special factors — has led ICSC Research to trim its November-December holiday sales forecast to between flat and down 1 percent.
“The main special factor in November was a tough comparison from last year with a calendar-shift drag on year-over-year sales, worth between 1.5 and 2.0 percentage points,” he said. “Looking ahead to December, ICSC forecasts that industry sales will grow by 1.5 percent.”
Target, for example, reported a same-store sales decline of 10.4 percent for November, which company executives attributed to cautious shopping early in November and fewer after-Thanksgiving shopping days for the month. Total sales for the four weeks ended Nov. 29 fell 6 percent to $5.61 billion.
Wal-Mart, on the other hand, said that November same-store sales rose 3.4 percent, exceeding its projections. The retailer attributed the jump to discounts on groceries, consumer electronics and Christmas decorations, as well as a drop in gas prices.
ICSC Chain Store Sales Trends is a monthly report based on publicly available sales for 37 chain stores. Industry sales aggregates are compiled for “comparable-store” or “same-store” sales and for total store sales.