Retailers look to woo shoppers from rivals as Amazon grows

NEW YORK — Toys and TVs at J.C. Penney, Barbies at Best Buy, kitchen appliances like wine refrigerators at B.J.’s. As the holiday shopping season officially kicks off Thursday, shoppers may find some surprises at their favorite stores.

Even as retailers are counting on a lift from a better economy, they’re looking beyond economic data and mapping out ways to pick up sales from other retailers as Amazon expands its reach. That can mean opening earlier than rivals on the holidays or even jumping into new product categories. The fight for market share comes as analysts at Bain say Amazon is expected to take half of the holiday season’s sales growth. And Amazon is the top destination for people to begin holiday shopping, according to a September study by market research firm NPD Group.

“The retailers are in survival mode. It’s about stealing each other’s market share,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. “Amazon is the Grinch. They’re stealing the growth.”

With the jobless rate at a 17-year-low of 4.1 percent and consumer confidence stronger than a year ago, analysts project healthy sales increases for November and December. The National Retail Federation trade group expects sales for that period to at least match last year’s rise of 3.6 percent and estimates online spending and other non-store sales will rise 11 percent to 15 percent.

Amazon is expected to be a big beneficiary as it cements loyalty among its Prime members and moves into new services and private-label merchandise. The company has introduced more than 20 such brands in the past two years in clothing, electronics, groceries and more, says Bain.

That leaves stores looking at rivals to see where they can pick up sales. There are extra dollars up for grabs this year, after thousands of store locations have closed and several retailers including Gymboree and Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy protection.

Jordan Ascencio, who has sons aged 1, 7, and 8, plans to bypass Toys R Us on Black Friday after being turned off by what she says are dirty stores and skimpy supplies. The latest problem: Her online order was canceled following a large-scale coupon glitch.

“I am not a fan anymore,” said the resident of Sapulpa, Oklahoma. Instead, she plans to buy toys at J.C. Penney and Target.

And with Gymboree shuttering a quarter of its stores, Ascencio is buying more of her children’s clothing at Target, which has launched a number …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News

How Black Friday Sales Madness Came to the U.K.

Before 2010, Black Friday didn’t exist in Britain. Now, the yearly retail sales bonanza is almost as ubiquitous in the U.K. as it is in the United States, and its tremendous growth shows little sign of slowing down in 2017.

In fact, this Friday Brits are expected to spend £1.8m ($2.39m) per minute on Black Friday, an eight percent increase on last year. That’s a faster rate of growth than in the U.S. — in a country that doesn’t even celebrate Thanksgiving. How did it happen?

Naturally it was American companies that brought Black Friday across the Atlantic. Amazon was one of the first, beginning to offer discounts in 2010. Amazon’s “global footprint” was key to turning Black Friday into a reality outside the U.S., Paul Murphy, analytics director at the consumer insight firm Kantar, tells TIME. “This is being driven much more by those people than the high street retailers.”

But the high street had no choice but to keep up, and that’s what they did – at least initially. Electronics retailer Currys PC World began to offer discounts in 2012, followed by the supermarkets Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s in 2013 and 2014. “Retailers are under continual pressure to keep their prices competitive,” says Murphy. “You have to play on such a key weekend.”

It was in 2013 that Black Friday truly entered the British consciousness. As prices in some stores were slashed by as much as eighty percent, hysteria broke out. Videos emerged from a London Asda of throngs of people clambering over each other, shouting and swearing, all to reach heavily discounted widescreen televisions during a U.S.-style “doorbuster” event.

Fights broke out, with police called to dozens of stores, the Telegraph reported at the time. A church leader lamented that the “ugly side of human nature” had been revealed. Shoppers compared the situation in supermarkets across the country to a “war zone.” (Americans, of course, are familiar with these kinds of frenzied scenes — in 2008, a Walmart worker was trampled to death by a crowd of shoppers).

In the wake of these events – but also because of the acute logistical strain caused by a massive influx of sales in a short period of time – some British shops scaled back. Asda didn’t run a Black Friday sale in 2015 or 2016, opting …read more

Source:: Time – Business

How to avoid holiday shopping fraud

SALT LAKE CITY — As the holiday shopping season approaches, the Utah Department of Commerce and the Utah Division of Consumer Protection released its annual list of shopping tips to keep consumers safe as they make holiday purchases.

The National Retail Federation estimated that 164 million Americans were planning to shop over the upcoming holiday, beginning on Thanksgiving Day into Black Friday and through the weekend.

The federation forecast consumers would spend $967 per person, including $608 on gifts for family and friends, $218 on food, candy and decorations, and $141 on non-gift purchases for themselves and family members.

The report stated retail sales between November and December could climb to upward of $678 billion. Finding good deals are still shoppers’ top priority, the federation said, noting 30 percent of consumers made all purchases “on sale” last year.

The federation reported that each year, online shopping continues to increase, with 64 percent of shoppers this year expected to use their smartphone or tablet to shop for holiday gifts, an 8 percent jump over last year. State officials noted that consumers are also expected to buy in-store, on mobile devices and via computer through text, email and website offers that could target consumers via social media as well.

“While Utahns are savvy when it comes to hunting for bargains in store and online, remember ’tis the season for con artists looking to line their pockets,” warned Francine Giani, executive director of the state Commerce Department. “Hot toys in demand can make consumers vulnerable to counterfeit products and fake websites.”

With so many shopping choices, the state Division of Consumer Protection advised consumers to carefully review refund and return policies prior to making purchases.

“As you compare prices and products, take a moment to review the vendors’ return policy to avoid any refund headaches after the holidays have passed,” said division director Daniel O’Bannon.

Tips for shopping smart and safe this holiday season

1. Beware of rogue public Wi-Fi spots — Scammers will set up shop at popular public Wi-Fi locations and promote “free” Wi-Fi connections to entice consumers to connect their devices.

2. Secure your smartphone and tablet devices — Install only apps or programs from known sources, keep an eye on your bill, investigate if your battery runs down quickly and do not leave your phone unattended.

3. Keep your anti-virus software up-to-date on your mobile devices and home computer — Make sure you have installed the latest firewall and anti-virus …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Business News