Indie Retailers and Social Media: Perfect Together?

Retail Trend Watchers Say Social Is Under-Utilized Despite Its Potential
July is Independent Retailer Month, a time to salute those merchants across the country who account for half of the annual total retail sales in the US. If our economy is to stay robust, independent retailers of all sizes need to thrive. For the smaller players in this sector of our industry, social media seems like the magic bullet. It’s pervasive, influential, and inexpensive. In addition, platforms like Facebook, offer pinpoint targeting, that matches messages to prospects.

So why aren’t more indies – especially the “Mom and Pops” – stepping up to social? Roughly one-quarter of independents have no social presence at all, and half of those who do have accounts use them inconsistently or post rarely. As regional leaders in commercial retail real estate, this is a trend we’re watching.

(Read more: https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/03/companies-that-do-not-use-social-media.html)

Why Social Media Matters to Small Businesses
As more consumers flock to social – 81 percent of the US population are on it – they expect to find local retailers there. And they expect those retailers to have websites, as well as social presence. Half the respondents to Time Warner Cable’s Small Business Technology Impact Study said they avoided businesses without websites, believing they are not credible. Thirty percent said they may not buy from a company without a social media presence, with females and millennials rejecting businesses without social at an even higher rate. Fifty percent of millennials stated they preferred businesses with active Facebook pages.

Ninety percent of the small retailers who do use social media are on Facebook. In fact, many substitute their Facebook pages for websites, a solution that, in spite of the platform’s popularity and influence, fails to impress potential customers for whom a web presence signals credibility. Bottom line? Small retailers need to think bigger and go with both a site and social for maximum success.

What’s Keeping Indie Retailers Off Social Media
With so much to gain (or lose) and so much competition, why are some indies ignoring or under-utilizing social? Respondents to the recent Clutch 2017 Small Business Social Media Survey say the primary barriers are the time social requires and doubts about ROI. And a recently released study from Infusionsoft says that half of the small businesses they surveyed had no idea what their ROI was and 14 percent believed their investment in social was not delivering a quantifiable payoff. Still, half said they plan to push forward with their online efforts.

From Special Offers to Personal Stories: Social Is Empowering the Indies
While some are missing out on the benefits of social media, many indie retailers are enjoying brand exposure and growth in traffic – both in-store and on the web. Their tactics include:

Storytelling: Millennials especially respond to the personal stories of entrepreneurs, told on social platforms like Facebook or on a website.

Special Offers: Those old reliable – coupons and special offers – are finding a new life on social.

Seasonal Events: In store-events, promoted on Facebook and sometimes livestreamed, are proving to have strong millennial appeal.

How To’s: Recipes, demonstrations, useful information of all kinds are social gold –

especially in video format on Facebook or YouTube.

Charity Tie-Ins: Socially conscious millennials tend to be responsive to social media-based tie-ins to local charities and community fundraisers.

Dialogue: Website visitors and social media followers alike expect responses to their comments and/or questions. Savvy retailers also monitor the major review platforms like Yelp for mentions of their business. Whether positive or negative, they leave a response.

Mobilization: Mobile technology is shaping the nature of shopping. Responsive design that makes websites mobile friendly is essential. And merchants who offer mobile payment options are cashing in with – you guessed it – the millennials.

Social media is no passing fad. Generation Z, the demographic wave behind the millennials, are true digital natives who live the online life. That includes not just online browsing but discovering and connecting with physical stores in their neighborhoods –

often the indies. And the place where this next generation is most likely to connect is in the palm of their hands – on their phone or tablet. Smart indies will make sure they’re there to meet them.

 

The Mighty Dollars: A Bricks and Mortar Success Story

Retail Real Estate Trend: Will Good Times Be Bad for Bargain

You might call them the mice that roared. They’re the dollar stores – now almost 30,000 nationwide and growing. These price point retailers not only weathered the economic recession but they triumphed, growing their annual sales by 50 percent from 2010-15, compared to the 17 percent notched by retail overall in the same period. And while every week seems to bring news of closing doors and downsizing among bricks and mortars, the dollar niche remains in expansion mode. Dollar General, the top player in this category, is set to open 1,000 new stores this year (that’s 3 per day)! (Read more: http://www.retaildive.com/news/why-dollar-general-will-keep-its-promise-to-build-1k-stores-this-year/434044/)

Demographics Plus Location Equals Dollars for the Dollar Niche
Low- and middle-income shoppers have been these stores’ sweet spot since the first Dollar General opened in 1955 with a variety of wares, all below a $1 price point. As more retailers joined the bargain bandwagon, a location strategy emerged: cluster the stores within a small range for maximum ease of access. It was the reverse of Walmart’s centralization strategy. Consumers who must economize on gas or who rely on public transportation can always find a dollar store close to home or work. The convenience factor also proved a powerful draw for time-starved shoppers at higher income levels.

Not Your Grandpa’s Dollar Store
The crash of 2008 that brought misery to merchants nationwide was a boon to the category. The newly price-conscious turned to the dollars and the stores responded to that rush by pushing their inventories beyond novelties, out-of-date seasonal decorations, discontinued brands and basic staples. To meet the needs of a new class of bargain hunters, they improved their product mix, while retaining their original “treasure hunt” appeal. Consumables – food, household paper goods and cleaning products, health and beauty aids and tobacco products – now comprise three-quarters of the average dollar store’s inventory. Some dollars have added frozen meals, and prepared sandwiches. And 99 Cents Only’s website promises “Fresh produce daily.”

Bargain-priced consumables have drawn another new demographic to the dollars: Millennials. Known for their thriftiness and their preference for experiences over possessions, these sought-after consumers are among the dollar stores’ most loyal customers. In fact, NPD Group reports that at the three biggest dollar chains, 25 percent of purchases were made by Millennials from $100,000-plus households.

Dollar Stores Continue to Boost Commercial Real Estate
Shopping centers shared in the success of the dollar store niche during the recession and that positive connection continues. We are pleased to have 16 dollar stores in our portfolio, all representatives of the major chains. Dollar stores typically seek ten-year leases on 8,000-12,000 SF spaces in properties with strong anchors and high traffic counts. Their solid financial positions and brand names plus their ability to pull in shoppers make them ideal tenants.

Retail Real Estate Trend: The Growth Pace of Dollar Stores May Ease
As the economy strengthens, retail trend watchers predict that in the dollar store category new challenges may cool the growth of dollar stores. Will consumers become less interested in bargain hunting? Will the reduction in SNAP benefits curb less affluent shoppers? Will some stores fall victim to the saturation of these retailers in certain areas and end up cannibalizing each other? What about competition from drug stores who now compete with the dollars in the food and beverage categories? Will Amazon finally chip away at the dollars’ convenience appeal with its same-day delivery of low-priced consumables? (Read more: http://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/21/when-1-can-be-much-more-the-dollar-store-divide.html)

On the positive side, the dollar stores stand to remain immune to the threat of online among their original sweet spot – the less affluent household who does not typically shop online. Their low overhead and the minimal investment required to open a new store are also strengths. And then there’s the loyal Millennial consumer segment. Dollar General, the category leader, just launched a new smaller-store concept catering to the taste and needs of urban Millennials.

We’re keeping an eye on this category. These were the big bricks and mortar bright spot of the last decade and we’re not likely to bet against the dollars.

Twelve Trends Will Shape The Year in Retail

Ahead: Smaller Stores, Personalization, Experience, and Tech Everywhere
Last month – January – is always “Predictions Month,” with pundits in every industry scanning the horizon for what’s ahead. We’ve reviewed most of the 2017 retail and retail real estate outlooks and wanted to share what we think is the best of the bunch. The comprehensive list that follows is from the Vend blog and includes observations from experts worldwide. Keep an eye on these twelve as the year rolls forward.

Shoppers Will Seek Retailers Who Deliver a Good In-Store Experience
1. Stores offering unique shopping experiences will thrive. “Experience” includes special additions like food services, but also the delivery of a seamless shopping experience, reflecting the online world. Crate + Barrel’s “Mobile Tote” is a good example. Shoppers use store-provided tablets to browse and note their favorites, while sales associates ready their orders.

2. Smaller stores will win out over their super-sized counterparts. Time-starved shoppers have less tolerance for navigating big spaces and look for easy-to-access inventory. Target, Best Buy and Ikea have jumped in with junior box stores. Expect more to follow.

3. Specialty stores will perform better than department stores. Building on #2 above, smaller venues with well-curated inventory and a knowledgable staff will beat the traditional department store concept. Note: those Millennials everyone is chasing are specialty store fans.

4. “Retailment” (the fusion of retail and entertainment) is the new game in town. To entice shoppers to leave their screens for an out-of-home experience, retailers will deliver everything from virtual reality to pop-ups. Note the rise of theaters that serve dinner and cocktails along with the movie.

 

Services Will Be Expected

5. Shoppers will expect same-day shipping. Consumers want the traditional gratification of having their purchase on the day they make it.

6. Personalization will be more important than ever. Shoppers want to be recognized and rewarded. Loyalty programs will step up their game with more customized offers based on buying history and other data.

 

The Reign of Tech Will Continue
7. Mobile will be the way to pay. TechCrunch predicts that there will be 447.9 million mobile payment users this year. Purchases in this mode will total $60 billion in 2017 and $503 billion in 2020. Savvy retailers will adopt whatever system fits them best, choosing from custom apps or third-party options like Apple Pay.

8. Omnichannel growth will continue. Effective omnichannel strategies will separate the winners from the losers in 2017. Vend’s retail trend watchers expect to see retailers push omnichannel in bold, new directions to deliver that seamless experience.

9. Data will continue to drive retail success. Data will be a force in every aspect of the retail process from supply chain to purchase. Collection and analysis of information will be a top focus, with social shopping making a major contribution.

10. Retail and tech will unite to deliver new ways to bring shoppers into bricks and mortar stores. Science fiction will come to shopping: the Internet of Things, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robots.

11. Apps, services and third parties will help bricks and mortars compete with online. But there’s one caveat: retailers will need to be selective about the tech products and platforms that serve their particular needs. There will be many to choose from. The best options are the ones that free the user to focus on the customer.

 

Transparency and Sustainability: Must Haves for Success in 2017
12. It’s no longer enough just to sell quality products at good prices. The Internet has created a hunger for information. Shoppers want to know what goes into a product. They’re driven by both ethics and a commitment to sustainability. This trend will continue into 2017 and beyond. (Think Millennials).

If you’ve enjoyed these highlights, read the complete Vend report at:

https://www.vendhq.com/university/retail-trends-and-predictions-2017 and watch these predictions become reality.

 

 

 

 

Big Boxes Are Discovering That Small Can Be Beautiful

Retail Real Estate Trend: “Right-Sizing” to Reach New Markets

It’s a retail real estate trend that began nearly a decade ago when Walmart and Home Depot began exploring the concept of smaller stores in or near urban centers. There’s been some bumps in the road, but it now appears that big box retailers can succeed as “small box” retailers. Eager to attract urban-oriented Millennials, as well as affluent empty nesters who have left the exburbs behind, major retailers are shedding square footage and creating accessible pint-sized versions of their massive models.

Unlike their big brothers, these minis range from 20,000 to 50,000 SF – a footprint that offsets the higher rents in densely populated areas. Instead of stocking “everything under one roof,” they offer a curated inventory matching local lifestyles. Companies are betting that proximity, convenience and branding will divert shoppers from their mobile screens and bring them into their neighborhood junior boxes to browse and buy. As regional leaders in commercial retail real estate, this is a trend we’re watching closely.

Hip Enclaves, City Centers, Inner Burbs, College Towns: Junior Boxes Are on the Move
Target, the leading upscale-downscale retailer, is offsetting the reduced traffic in its mammoth suburban stores, by going small in major metro areas like New York City and Chicago, in corporate hubs and in college towns. These new Targets, some at just 20,000 SF, feature hyper localized offerings. The State College, Pa. store, for example, features pantry items for dorm living plus Penn State fan merchandise. The Cupertino, CA Target, meanwhile, aims at Silicon Valley workers with grab-and-go lunches and techie gear. In many pint-sized, urban Targets, shoppers can pick up or return their online orders. Prices are on par with nearby suburban Targets, to avoid cannibalization. And Target is thinking big when it comes to rolling out these stores. There are over 30 already with more planned for 2017. Read more: http://www.wsj.com/articles/target-goes-after-younger-market-with-small-focused-stores-1475597213

Whole Foods has joined this retail real estate trend with a hip brand extension – 365 by Whole Foods Market, located in hot neighborhoods like LA’s Silver Lake and Portland’s Lake Oswego. Like Target’s junior format, these stores are smaller than their suburban counterparts. But unlike Target, prices are generally lower than in their traditional stores. The company sees its brand extension not only as a way to tap a desirable demographic, but as a “lab” for testing new products. Read more: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-365-store-opening-20160525-snap-htmlstory.html

Walmart Tackles the Art of Thinking Small…Again
Walmart was a pioneer of “junior boxes” with its 12,000 SF Walmart Express stores. Launched as a pilot in 2011 and situated in major cities like Chicago, as well as small towns near the retailer’s home turf, the stores featured a limited selection of groceries, household supplies, beauty products and pharmacy. The competition was the dollar and drug stores, the 7/11s and Wawas that drew customers on price and convenience. But Walmart’s supercenter supply chain model simply couldn’t scale down and the 102 unprofitable mini-markets were shuttered last year in a chain-wide downsizing. Read more: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/wal-mart-to-close-walmart-express-stores-as-part-of-reorganization-2016-01-15

The world’s largest retailer hasn’t abandoned the “junior box” concept though. Its focus is now on its Neighborhood Markets. At 28,000 to 60,000 SF, these minis are just one-fifth the size of the typical supercenter. The 600-plus fleet of stores (85-95 more will be added this year) includes some urban locations (for example, Chicago and Minneapolis), but tend to be located in highly accessible inner suburbs. Groceries, household supplies, health and beauty products and pharmacy comprise the inventory, at Walmart’s “always low prices.” Traditional bargains plus greater accessibility, the company believes, will deliver a new wave of shoppers.

Junior Boxes: A Retail Real Estate Trend That’s Here to Stay?
A downsized generation of big boxes is going strong at present, with smaller Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Lowes operating in non-traditional settings. It’s a big play to win Millennials and offset flagging traffic in some supercenters. Let’s keep watching.

Fasten Your Seatbelts: Generation Z is Ready to Shop

Retail Trend Sees History’s Most Demanding Consumers on the Horizon There’s no rest for the retailer. Just when you thought you’d mastered Millennial marketing, along comes a new wave of consumers you’ve got to figure out. Dubbed Generation Z and 70 million strong, this rising demographic will represent 25 percent of the US population by 2020. It’s time to get ready for what retail trend watchers say will be the most demanding consumers of all time.

Raised Online and Digitally Addicted: Meet Generation Z
Gen Z members are still very young (13 to 18), so it may be difficult to draw too many solid conclusions about their eventual buying habits. But a number of factors are likely to define their future behavior. Consider the following about them:
-First generation born in the 21st century
-Grew up in challenging economic times
-Never knew a world without the Internet
-Citizens of an on-demand culture
-Tethered to technology since their earliest days

That said, a picture emerges of a consumer who expects instant access to everything and who relies on digital resources for discovering what they want and for getting it when they want it. Forty-percent of Gen Z claim they are “addicted” to their digital devices.

Where to Reach The Z’s: Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube
Characterized by their short-attention spans and love of novelty, it’s no surprise that Z’s prefer quick visual communication. Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube are their platforms of choice. In fact, 72 percent say they visit YouTube daily. Streaming movies and music is a way of life for the group – over half do so daily – obviously a result of their on-demand orientation. And gaming is a major focus with a high degree of interest in virtual reality.

Z’s Are Different from Millennials in Surprising Ways
While both these age cohorts are intense social media users, Millennials (age 19-34) are more influenced by it than Z’s. Over half of the older group (58 percent) credit social as a top purchasing driver. Only 53 percent of the younger demo names it as their major influencer.

Millennials, as we know by now, are active reviewers of brands and experiences, sharing their opinions across the social media spectrum. Z’s much less so. Millennials are 40 percent more likely than Z’s to get their viewpoints out. Will the younger group grow into word-of-mouth as they mature? That’s something worth watching.

Gen Z’s were shaped by the uncertain economic environment of the last decade. Despite this experience, they are much less likely to be bargain hunters than the Millennials. The older group is 29 percent more inclined to check and compare prices before and during shopping trips. The Z’s milder interest in pricing may be due to the fact that the majority are not yet living independently. Will they acquire the Millennials’ cost consciousness as they move out on their own? Another retail trend to watch.

Don’t Miss Out on Marketing to Generation Z
Z’s are still in their formative years, but here’s what Deborah Weinswig, managing director of Fung Global Retail & Technology foresees. “Exposure to near-infinite choice and near-endless information makes this generation more demanding than any of its predecessors. As Gen Z matures, it will become more discerning, but its demanding nature is unlikely to be diluted. We think brands and retailers will be the ones that need to change, because Gen Z is unlikely to compromise on its high expectations.” Read more about Gen Z’s consumer demand here.

Yes, today’s tweens and teens will soon be full-fledged consumers with new and unique habits and demands. Savvy retailers should be ready to accommodate them. Sharpen your visual messaging now. Get active on Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Stay up to the minute with mobile marketing. Be ready to deliver at warp speed. Develop incentives for the Z’s to follow you on their platforms of choice. A new breed of shopper is heading your way!

For more information on Generation Z:
https://iei.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/GenZConsumers.pdf

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/deep-patel/6-trends-for-generation-z_b_11227446.html

Can Pokémon Go Keep Retail Sales Hot Through the Holidays?

Retail Trend Watchers Are Eyeing the Staying Power of Pikachu and Friends
This was the Summer of Pokémon. Within days of its debut last July, Pokémon GO, the augmented reality game was breaking records and setting new ones. In just five days, it became the most popular game in mobile history, with its free downloads eventually reaching 500 million. While the action was concentrated among Millennials (who grew up with Pokémon), teen users were spending more time hunting Pokémon characters than posting on Twitter and Instagram combined. Females, traditionally a smaller segment of gamers, stepped up to Pokémon GO, becoming 40 percent of the user population. Since the game forced players off the couch and into the outside world, there were unintended consequences. Some, engrossed in the hunt, were robbed. A number were arrested for trespassing. Many got traffic tickets, and a few even fell off cliffs.

Pokémon GO Fans Have a Hearty Appetite for Branded Merchandise
When fans weren’t catching and training the elusive pocket monsters, they were shopping for merchandise that reflected their passion. Online sales of Pokémon merchandise were nothing short of spectacular. According to the Adobe Digital Price Index, sales of Pokémon-branded items rose 105 percent in July, compared to the previous year, with the hottest items being video games, toys and t-shirts. But what’s next? Can the frenzy continue into the holiday season? Will bricks-and-mortar stores reap the same success as online purveyors of Pokémon merchandise? Retailers have their fingers crossed and retail trend watchers are optimistic.

The Summer’s Frenzy is Cooling, but the Holiday Season Still Looks Strong
Pokémon GO was too hot not to cool down, but even as usage ebbs, the franchise itself remains a powerhouse. Gina Collins, CMO at Build-A-Bear, one of the stores licensed to sell Pokémon merchandise, is bullish on the coming season. “Sales have continued to gain momentum,” she reported. The chain’s inventory of 20th Anniversary Pokémon Pikachu plush dolls has sold out and there are wait lists for the next shipment.

Anthony Morales, assistant manager at Build-A-Bear in Fairfax, VA, reported that more and more customers are hunting Pokémon-themed items. “It feels like the 90’s all over again. We just had a group of kids that got a lot of Pikachu dolls and they were playing and talking in little Pikachu voices,” he told Ad Age.

Pokémon Items are Headed for the Kids’ 2016 Holiday Wish List
Pokémon fans can choose from an abundance of branded merchandise in the coming season: plush toys, clothing, accessories, and action figures, along with the Pokémon card game. Late November will see the launch of two new video games, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, likely to be best-sellers in that category this holiday.

Toy Insider predicts that “the Pokémon GO craze will command a lot of space on kids’ wish lists.” Their own Hot 20 List for 2016 includes two Pokémon-themed products. At the number nine position is Pokémon My Friend Pikachu (from Tomy) a plush toy that speaks, lights up and wiggles its ears. At position 20 are the soon-to-be-released Nintendo video games Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon.

If predictors of retail trends are right, 2016 holiday sales are in for a big boost, thanks to Nintendo’s crew of irresistible pocket monsters.

Back-to-School Retail Season Looks Like Something to Celebrate

Fastest Rate of Growth in Four Years Was Driven by Electronics and Discounters

Early numbers are in for the 2016 BTS shopping season and retailers have something to cheer about. Though August retail numbers slipped a bit (down 0.3 percent), BTS sales were strong. Retail trend watchers and managers of retail real estate alike can’t help but be cheered by the activity during this second biggest shopping period of the year.

Will BTS Sales Meet the NRF’s 2016 Projection of $75.8 Billion?
Though not all the numbers are in yet, a recent report from Reuters says that 2016 BTS spending grew at its fastest rate in four years. According to statistics from First Data, sales rose 2 percent in July vs. 1 percent in 2015 and 2014 and just .2 percent in 2013. The NRF’s $75.8 billion projection for the BTS 2016 may be realized.

Good Weather and Optimistic Outlook Brought in the Shoppers
Better weather than in recent BTS seasons brought a wave of shoppers into stores. Many of them were searching for bargains – especially parents of young children. These are the thrifty Millennials, who came of age in lean times. “Income rises faster than frugality changes,” one retail analyst suggested.

Electronics Were the Hottest Items on the 2016 Shopping List
As expected, the big-sellers could be found in the electronics category. Electronics and appliance sales have been climbing in 2016 – their sharpest ascent in four years, according to First Data. BTS shoppers went for tablets and USB drives, especially if those items were bundled with special offers. Best Buy’s aggressive offers and coupons delivered strong sales. Items geared for dorm life were among the big winners.

Gap Recovers and Fast Fashion Outposts Score Big
Gap gained traction during the BTS season, leading to thoughts that its troubles may be behind them. Low-priced, fast fashion stores like Old Navy, T.J.Maxx and Marshalls delivered strong numbers, too. Chief Industry Analyst-Retail at NPD Group, Marshal Cohen credited the numbers at these stores to youngsters who will accept shopping at lower-priced retailers because they can get “more stuff.”

Whatever the reason for surging sales, retailers are closing out a banner season – the best in a long time. Now, all eyes are on the winter holiday ahead.

Outlook on Back-to-School Sales Has Retailers Cheering

Total Volume Projected to Reach Near-Record Levels for the 2016 Season

The school bell is ringing in the second biggest retail spending season of the year. Retail trend watchers are predicting more-than-healthy sales with shoppers in an upbeat mood and retailers and retail real estate companies like Levin are keeping a close eye on the action. The National Retail Federation (NRF) projects that total sales will approach a near-record level of $75.8 billion, up from $68 billion last year. The season began early with shoppers hitting stores and online sites in June, and so far the purchasing pace is strong. We’ll see the full story next month, but for now here’s a look at what’s behind the surge.

More Kids in School: A Retail Trend That Will Continue
As the NRF observed, the children of the first wave of the massive Millennial generation are beginning to swell the school age population, contributing to increased BTS spending (a retail trend that’s expected to continue over the next decade as the Millennials enter the job market and form families).

More Confidence in the Economy
Mid-July’s consumer confidence figures held steady with Americans reporting positive attitudes about the economy. That confidence is reflected in Deloitte’s ninth annual back- to-school survey in which 81 percent of respondents said their finances were better or the same as last year. It’s no surprise then that 39 percent of those polled by the Rakuten Marketing Survey said they plan to spend more on BTS purchases than last year. Depending on the source, the projected average spend ranges from $488 to $673 per K-12 student.

Starting Early, Spending More at Bricks and Mortars and Online
Online BTS shopping continues to climb – projected to expand by 9 percent in 2016. But bricks and mortar stores will continue to dominate, except in the electronics category where online is the top choice. Here’s where US shoppers, who’ve been buying for BTS since June, say they will be spending their dollars:

  • Discounters
  • Department Stores
  • Clothing Stores
  • Online (top of the list for electronic purchases)

Online is expected to continue to play a major role in BTS purchase decisions as shoppers (61 percent) reported in the Deloitte survey that they will research products, compare prices and look for deals online prior to heading out to shop. Fifty percent of those said they will rely on their smartphones when making purchasing decisions.

Free Shipping Will Drive Online Purchases, Store Pick-Up Appeals
According to the NRF, online BTS shoppers are heavily influenced by free shipping. Eighty-nine percent of those surveyed said they reject paying for delivery.

Ordering online with store pick-up was favored by 54 percent of the respondents, while 10 percent (predominantly male) wanted same day delivery.

Apparel Heads the BTS Shopping List, Lunch Boxes and Backpacks are the Most Sought-After Accessories
Clothing, electronics, shoes and supplies are the top categories on 2016’s BTS list. (For high school or college students, electronics lead the pack). Office supply stores and drug stores, long the source of pencils and paper, will likely feel new competition from kits marketed by schools or PTAs.

Topping the trends for elementary schoolers are the once-utilitarian lunch box and backpack, reborn in a wide variety of fabrics and styles. It’s Hello Kitty and My Little Pony themes for girls, while boys are opting for camo and superheroes. High-end backpacks for the elementary set feature LED lights, while packs for computer-toting high schoolers and college students offer multiple pockets for electronic gear and accessories.

Not surprisingly, school-bound girls are going for animal prints and glitter, while boys are opting for Under Armor and Nike apparel. But surprisingly, kids are helping fund their BTS buys. The Deloitte study projects that elementary school students will lay out an average of $20 and middle schoolers an average of $33 for BTS purchases. Is this the influence of thrifty Millennial parents? Stay tuned. And stay tuned as well for the final numbers on BTS 2016.

Retail Trend: Fashion Shifts from Exclusive to Inclusive

Social Media, Population Diversity and Movements Like Body Positive Are Driving Changes in Women’s Wear

From the catwalk to the pages of glossy magazines to malls across America, inclusive fashion is making a statement. The 2004 Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, celebrating women of all looks and sizes, launched a trend that now includes not just fashions for the plus-size market but also chic designs that accommodate the dress codes of Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women, and fit the needs of those with physical limitations. Retail trend watchers say demographic diversity and the open attitudes of the Millennials are fueling the changes, along with social campaigns from Body Positive and the Modesty Movement. Fashion bloggers and online communities have also given a collective voice to groups once overlooked by designers and retailers.

At the Forefront of Inclusive Fashion: The Plus-Size Shopper
Clothing for style-conscious, plus-size women broke the exclusive nature of the fashion industry. Though Lane Bryant launched the concept of plus-sizes early in the last century, the choices were dowdy and designed to conceal rather than glamorize.

Setting a New Standard for Fashion and Beauty
“Role models, not runway models,” is a slogan now heeded across the fashion industry as role models hit the runway. The movement began over a decade ago and reached some major moments with Eden Miller’s plus-size show at New York’s 2015 Fashion Week and Lane Bryant’s #PlusIsEqual ad in the centerfold of Vogue’s September 2015 issue, and Nike’s #BetterForIt campaign. Add to those, the appearance of plus-size model Ashley Graham on the cover of Sports Illustrated 2016 swimsuit issue and it seems that fashion and pop culture are re-defining the standard of beauty.

No Longer a Retail Trend, but a $17-Billion Dollar Market
Designers and retailers alike have embraced the $17-billion plus-size market. Sixty-seven percent of U.S. women, in fact, are in the 14 to 34 size range and they are demanding chic contemporary looks that celebrate, not just accommodate, their body type. And everywhere from discounters to high-end boutiques, plus-sizes have taken a prominent place in the inventory.

Religion and Personal Preference Drive a New Retail Trend: Modesty in Fashion
Despite the hyper-sexy looks of contemporary fashion, there is a significant demand for conservative clothing. Driven by the dress codes of faith groups, the push for conservative fashion is also promoted by the Modesty Movement, which urges women to reject the role of sex object. Whatever their motive in covering up, women still look for fashionable and cutting-edge clothes that honor their beliefs and reflect their personal style. (Read more: http://www.today.com/style/why-covering-cool-inside-fashions-modesty-movement-mormon-style-bloggers-t12216)

Major Designers are Eyeing the Muslim Market
High-fashion hijabs and other clothing and accessories for Muslim women have long been popular throughout the Middle East and are readily available online. Now they’ve arrived in bricks-and-mortar stores like Uniqlo and H&M. One retailer, the Verona Collection, recently opened a store in Orlando Fashion Square, devoted to Muslim styles. The chic, layered looks are also attracting non-Muslim shoppers. (Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/modest-muslim-clothing-store-hopes-to-cater-to-people-of-all-faiths_us_573a1345e4b060aa781ae2e2) With Muslims worldwide expected to spend $327-billion on fashion and footwear by 2019, it’s no surprise that Zara, DKNY, Oscar de la Renta, Tommy Hilfiger and others are designing for this market.

Hasidic Sisters Launch a Fashion Line with Appeal Beyond the Orthodox
Brooklyn, the epicenter of hipness, is becoming the source of trendy styles that satisfy both the Orthodox Jewish dress code and the desire to look contemporary. Sisters Mimi Hecht and Mushky Notik, founders of MiMu Maxi, produce a line of billowy dresses, skirts, wraps and leggings that reflect a “worldly sensibility” that has earned them 18,000 Instagram followers. Their designs draw shoppers beyond their Orthodox community, with 50 percent of their buyers Christians. A quarter of their customers, they say, are non-religious women, seeking a conservative, but fashion-forward look. (Read more: http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2015/10/27/modesty-moves-into-the-mainstream/)

A Retail Trend on the Horizon: Adaptive Fashion
Stylish clothing that accommodates a variety of physical challenges is perhaps the newest aspect of inclusive fashion. But with 60 million people in the U.S. living with a permanent disability, there’s a need waiting to be filled. For the past two NY Fashion Weeks, the runways have been graced by models with a variety of physical and cognitive challenges, who’ve won standing ovations. (Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/new-york-fashion-week-models-disabilities_n_6737498)

Now, designers are stepping up with fashions that fit the unique needs of this demographic. Tommy Hilfiger, who has launched a children’s line, is among the first big names. In addition to clothing, the company offers sensitivity training for sales associates who will be working with children and their parents. Young designer Lucy Jones, who made Forbes “30 Under 30” list is designing practical fashions for the wheelchair bound. And top schools like Parsons and FIT now offer classes in inclusive design.

Study Finds That the Vast Majority of Americans Shop Online

But…Bricks-and-Mortar Stores Are Still Dominant by a Wide Margin
Online shopping is no longer a trend. It’s now a way of life in America, with 96 percent of the respondents in a recent study saying they shop online. All demographic groups – from Millennials to Seniors – are turning to their various screens for making a purchase. And, they’re loving the experience, ranking it ahead of smartphone GPS and streaming media as “something they can’t live without.” Big Commerce, an e-commerce platform, and Kelton Global, research consultants, discovered these facts and more in a March 2016 study of 1,000 shoppers. Their findings have been reported by Chain Store Age (see article) and other retail industry media.

The massive report is also well worth a read for leaders in retail real estate. But before you dive into all the findings, check out these ten highlights.

1.Good News for Retail Real Estate
Shoppers love online, but 64 percent of those surveyed still buy in bricks-and-mortars. This includes Millennials – 44 percent said they shop in stores. Women make more shopping trips than men. Men buy more online.

2.More Good News for Retail Real Estate
Survey respondents said their least favorite aspects of online shopping were: inability to touch and feel merchandise, shipping charges, exchanges, and waiting for delivery.

3.Brick-and-Mortar Websites are Online Shopping Hubs
Twenty-five percent of respondents in the Big Commerce study had shopped at the website of a brick-and-mortar store.

 4.Favorite Features of Online Shopping
No surprises here. Shoppers choose online for convenience and speed of sale.

 5.Most Online Dollars Go to E-Commerce Marketplaces
Big Commerce’s respondents spent an average of $488 last year on sites like Amazon and eBay. Their second highest spending level was on the sites of major online/offline brands ($409).

6.What Do Online Shoppers Want on Websites?
Online shoppers want images, video demonstrations, customer reviews, and product comparison – all the things that bring an item to life.

 7.How Do Shoppers Choose an E-Commerce Site?
Price is the main driver (87 percent), followed closely by free shipping and speed (80 percent).

8.Shipping Costs are a Major Stumbling Block to Online Sales
Online shoppers are super-resistant to paying for shipping. Two-thirds of those in the Big Commerce study said they had abandoned their shopping carts when they saw the shipping charges.

9.Social Commerce is on the Rise

Thirty percent of the respondents said they were open to buying through a social media network. More than half the Millennials were ready to shop on social. Facebook and Pinterest were the social platforms of choice.

10.Online Shopping is Everywhere and Round the Clock
In retail stores, in the car, in the office – 24/7 – people are shopping online. Forty-three percent shop in bed and 20 percent shop while in the bathroom. Ten percent admit to shopping under the influence of alcohol (13 percent of them Millennials and 17 percent Gen-Xers). Maybe this is why 42 percent of Big Commerce’s respondents admitted regretting an online purchase, and 21 percent said they had bought something online “by accident.”