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NRF Foundation: Retailers Hopeful For This Year

As the economy starts showing signs of improvement coming off one of the hardest economic downturns, U.S. retailers are being cautiously optimistic about the remainder of 2010, according to the recently released eighth annual Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2009, Forecasts for 2010 report.

The report, released by the NRF Foundation and KPMG, examines benchmarks for the retail industry, retailers' key business priorities and plans, and emerging retail trends. Based on a survey of more than 300 retailers, the report looks how companies shifted priorities last year and what strategies they're putting in place for 2010.

“Last year, retailers placed a significant amount of energy into improving core business processes in order to better prepare themselves for a successful future,” said Kathy Mance, executive director, NRF Foundation. “Looking ahead, retailers will continue to analyze customer shopping habits and industry trends to make the best decision possible for their company, employees, customers and their brand.”

Highlights from the Benchmarks for 2009 include:

An increased focus on direct mail, online and in-store promotions in 2009 at the expense of more costly marketing such as event sponsorships, television and print advertising;Growth to 32% in 2009 versus 29% in 2008 in private label merchandise offerings;More attention turned to customer retention rather than customer acquisition;Less promotionally priced merchandise, which makes up less of the overall sales mix this year than last;Reduced supply chain costs and warehouse optimization, which were among the top priorities for retailers in 2009.

For 2010, the report finds many retailers are “eager to invest in growth opportunities again. Key areas include store expansion, social media, targeted marketing and advertising, employee retention, leadership development, adoption of handheld technology devices and kiosks and website personalization options, to name a few.”

Some of the 2010 highlights include:

43% of respondents said they expect to maintain the same number of stores throughout 2010; and more than one-third, or 37%, said they plan moderate to aggressive expansion;Nearly half (49%) of those polled report that personalization of their website will be a major investment priority for 2010;After 61% of respondents said customer acquisition was a big part of their initiatives in 2009, only 49% said they will focus on that in 2010;One-third, or 30%, of those polled say they will focus on store allocation and markdown optimization over the next 18 months;More than two-thirds, or 67%, said customer database/data mining will be a priority for 2010;32% cited both e-Training and self-service kiosks as priorities in the next 18 months.

“One of the overriding themes of the survey is that retailers are striving to do more with less. And we expect that this theme will continue into 2010 and beyond, “said Mark Larson, global head of retail, KPMG.

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