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Holiday forecast: Optimism with chance of growth

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK —Cautious optimism may best describe 2010 holiday sales projections, because even as sales inch toward more historical growth levels, there still are significant margin pressures to be expected on account of discount-driven shoppers.

The National Retail Federation has pegged moderate holiday sales growth of 2.3%, to $447.1 billion. It’s a figure that falls short of historical holiday sales growth by 20 basis points, but is a far cry better than the 0.4% growth realized last year, or the 3.9% decline in holiday sales posted in 2008.

Retailers remain cautious because consumer surveys are finding that those shoppers who do plan to participate in gift-giving this year also have reported they will be paying close attention to bargains as compared with years past. According to the 1,000 consumers surveyed as part of SymphonyIRI Group’s “Special Report: Holiday Shopping 2010,” nearly 75% planned to be more strategic this year by comparing prices of items online before making their purchasing decisions, a factor made easier with the prevalence of smart phones in the market.

2010 “Fabulous Toy List”

Source: Toys “R” Us
Calico Critters Luxury Townhouse from International Playthings
Cuponk from Hasbro Games
Disney Princess & Me dolls from Jakks Pacific
Disney-Pixar “Toy Story 3” Imaginext Tri-County Landfill from Fisher-Price
Fast Lane Wild Fire RC from Toys “R” Us
Imaginext Bigfoot the Monster from Fisher-Price
Leapster Explorer from LeapFrog
Loopz from Mattel
Minotaurus from Lego Systems
Monster High Cleo DeNile and Deuce Gorgon doll set from Mattel
Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS from Hasbro
Pillow Pets from Ontel Products
Sing-a-ma-jigs! from Mattel
Squinkies Cupcake Surprise! Bakeshop from Blip Toys
Tomica Hypercity Mega Station Set from Tomy

More consumers deliberately are reducing expenses by spending less on gifts and holiday celebration-related food and beverages, the survey found, as 2010 will see an increase in the number of consumers (23%) who plan to budget no more than $199 this year on gift shopping—up eight points from 2009 (15%) and 12 points from 2008 (11%). “The economy continues to transform, and with that, consumers are evolving,” noted John McIndoe, SVP marketing at SymphonyIRI. “As a result, today’s retail environment is even more complex than we have seen historically.”

A separate NPD Group survey found that only about 1-in-10 consumers planned to spend more this year than last. The majority of shoppers (61%) were planning on spending no more than they did last year. “Even though the recession is technically over, lingering concerns are keeping consumers in a cautious frame of mind,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. “We are seeing what I call ‘calculated consumption,’ and I believe that it is a consumer mindset that will be around after holiday shopping is over.”

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Assured sees high rise in same-store sales

BY Alaric DeArment

FRISCO, Texas September same-store sales at Assured Pharmacy increased by 13.5% compared with last year, the specialty pharmacy provider said Thursday.

Assured, which specializes in treating chronic pain, said sales were $1.4 million, or around $66,253 per business day, compared with $1.23 million a year ago.

“We are pleased with our September sales results and our continued patient growth, with 3,064 patients serviced in the month of September,” CEO Robert DelVecchio said. “As these sales figures reflect, we remain on track for increased sales and market share growth, improved earnings at the store level and stronger cash flow.”

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Retailers, drug makers can help cut diabetes rate

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The dramatic rise in the prevalence of diabetes over the next several decades is likely to place huge strains on the U.S. healthcare system, costing the country hundreds of billions of dollars every year. It also means the diabetes market will continue to be a hot bed for innovation for decades to come.

(THE NEWS: Diabetes prevalence among Americans may increase to 33%, CDC study finds. For the full story, click here)

Barring a cure for the disease or a dramatic reversal of current trends, the plague of Type 2 diabetes is likely to get worse and account for numerous hospitalizations, as it already does. According to the government Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, nearly 1-in-5 U.S. hospitalizations in 2008 were related to diabetes, with the greatest concentration in the South.

No individual, company or even government agency can reverse the trend on its own, but many — including retailers — can help. And that will continue to feed a frenzy of activity in this space.

Agrowing number of supermarkets across the country have used various means to promote healthy eating, ranging from easy-to-read nutritional rating systems to in-store nutrition experts and store tours. Meanwhile, pharmacists and retail clinicians, as healthcare providers, can use their expertise to spread awareness as well. Rite Aid stores will offer free Diabetes Solutions Days events Nov. 2 through 4.

Health insurer Anthem Blue Cross has won recognition for a pilot diabetes program, “Bridging Cultural Health Care Gaps: Diabetes,” which seeks to find culturally appropriate ways to communicate about diabetes to African-American and Hispanic members. Anthem conducted the pilot among 4,000 of its members in California and Georgia, and plans to expand the program to other states. 

More of these localized types of efforts — borne out of the spirit of the Ashville Project — continue to arise.

And of course, manufacturers continue to lead the innovation, and many are going beyond just products. Novo Nordisk recently released the BlueSheet, a report that promotes awareness and education in the prevention and treatment of diabetes.

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