Is Retail Recovering?

The Holidays are over and we’ve entered a new decade. Will 2010 prove to be better year for retail? And how did the 2009 holiday season stack up? The Retail Marketing Society hosted a luncheon at the Williams Club on January 20th to discuss these topics. After some nibbles and socializing, Angela Jameson of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) presented an overview of the outlook for retail sales. Ms. Jameson was happy to report that store sales for November/December were up 2.3% from last year (3.6% for December alone). Apparently, consumers shopped much later in the season and although sales began slowly, the totals still came out ahead of 2008’s numbers. Luxury was the highest performer with sales up 7.1% in December 2009. In fact, the luxury market is predicted to remain the leader in sales performance for 2010 (estimated 6% – 8%). To this point, guest speaker Marni Shapiro commented, “Rich people didn’t lose ALL their money; they still have some to spend.”

Ms. Shapiro, Managing Partner for The Retail Tracker, spoke about “The New Retail – The Reset Button: What Went Wrong & What Went Right.” Shapiro is an entertaining speaker and a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the world of retail and the consumer. According to Shapiro, brand DNA is the most significant element when it comes to successful selling. A brand must define itself in a few words. The customer should have a quick and clear picture of what the brand stands for and offers. Some examples are: Ann Taylor – career dressing; Juicy – velour sweat suits; Louis Vuitton – luxury. Also, it is imperative that a brand embrace their DNA rather than fight their identity. “I don’t understand why JC Penney insists on going after that 22 year old customer.” Shapiro said.

The general forecast for retail performance is not completely bleak for 2010, but today, more than ever, people are looking for value. Opportunities to generate sales lie within areas where consumers can spend money to feel good about themselves. Beauty is a category in which people will begin to upgrade their products. “As the client gains confidence in the economy, she will go back to buying the more expensive mascara that she truly loves rather than continue using the drug store brand that she compromised with the past year,” Shapiro said. On an internal rather than external level, the customer will more likely be inclined to make a purchase that donates a portion of the sale to a charity.

The most important thing to offer the client is the ability to buy exactly what he/she wants, where he/she wants and when. Today, retailers must make it as easy as possible for the shopper. Shapiro joked about her desire to live in a “Jetson-like” world in which we all have our own bar codes. “I see a future where everyone will walk around with cell phones programmed with their bar code, credit card information and shipping address so that all we need to do is scan the items we want.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?

To find out more about the Retail Marketing Society including membership and upcoming events, visit them online at

-Stacy Lomman



Ernest Schmatolla is publisher of Lookonline since 1994. It is the longest running fashion site on the Internet.

1 Comment
  1. Even a 2% increase translates into millions, if not billions of dollars more for retailers. The retail industry is poised for a comeback and it didn't need a bailout.

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