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Many Valentine’s Day shoppers will opt to buy gifts online

BY Allison Cerra

RYE BROOK, N.Y. — A new quarterly index developed by eBillme found that 19% of shoppers will spend more on Valentine’s Day this year.

The index polled 1,200 consumers to measure projected online spending for the quarter and the influencing factors, eBillme said. Of the consumers polled, the index revealed, 32% of shoppers will purchase Valentine’s Day gifts online.

This quarter, respondents also were asked what they planned to purchase for Valentine’s Day. Findings included:

  • 60% planned to purchase something other than chocolates or flowers this year;

  • 10% planned to purchase a gift card for their Valentine; and

  • 47% of shoppers remained uncertain about what to purchase for Valentine’s Day, representing an opportunity for retailers to win these sales.

"There will be a lot of retail love this Valentine’s season," said Marwan Forzley, president and CEO of eBillme. "Retailers are coming off one of the best holiday shopping seasons in several years, and it looks like the spending will continue for another quarter. Our index paints a very optimistic picture for the e-commerce sector with increases in shoppers and sales projected for the quarter."

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Retailers name store expansion as top priority for 2011

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — Retailers are ready to expand again, and likely will do so as the economy picks up, according to a new survey conducted by the charitable arm of the National Retail Federation and KPMG.

In their ninth annual "Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2010, Forecasts for 2011" report, the NRF Foundation and KPMG found that among 318 of executives surveyed, 41% said they are looking to expand their domestic reach this year, up from one-quarter of retail executives surveyed last year. International expansion plans also are on the rise, with 25% of executives saying that they will broaden their businesses overseas, up from 21% last year.

Mark Larson, partner in charge of KPMG’s retail group, said “these findings dramatically demonstrate that retail expansion is back on the agenda. After several years of belt tightening, retailers are also ready to begin experimenting again with new brick-and-mortar concepts, hoping to appeal to shoppers interested in buying discretionary items once again,” Larson added. “They will, however, move ahead with cost discipline in mind.”

But while retailers will widen their scope, many also will focus on customer-centric initiatives — that is, honing in on customer service and such strategic measures as implementing mobile e-commerce or m-commerce, as well as such insight initiatives as customer loyalty programs. For this year, 75% of retailers said customer service will be a top priority (up from 56% on 2010), while 69% of retailers said they will focus on mobile e-commerce, or m-commerce, and 74% of retailers this year will increase their consumer insight and data-gathering initiatives.

To purchase the full "Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2010, Forecasts for 2011" report, click here.

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Fresh & Easy unveils Design-A-Bag winner

BY Allison Cerra

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Fresh & Easy debuted the winning design from its first-ever Design-A-Bag contest in its stores this week.

The new reusable bag retails for only 79 cents and already is a big hit with customers, with thousands already sold. The bag’s creative design was hand-drawn by Los Angeles resident Josephine Close, who received a year’s worth of free groceries for winning the contest.

According to the company, the Design-A-Bag contest generated more than 1,300 submissions from customers and 24,000 votes by "Friends of Fresh & Easy" — customers who have signed up to receive the latest news about the company along with exclusive offers at Freshandeasy.com/friends.

"We set out to design a desirable and affordable bag people actually want to use and reuse, and we turned to our customers for inspiration," said Roberto Munoz, Fresh & Easy director of neighborhood affairs. "Based on sales of the bag already, we know customers like the design and the price point. We hope this new bag will continue to encourage customers to use fewer single-use bags in exchange for reusable options."

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