Retail opportunities forecast for 2006
So far this year, many shoppers still appear keen to be engaged by new retail concepts and services, according to US-based retail marketing consultancy McEvoy & Associates, which has published a hot list of five retail opportunities for 2006.
After a quite respectable December, January's retail sales results have been more impressive, largely due to the redemption of all-time high sales of holiday gift cards. And February's sales figures were seen to reward those retailers that went to special lengths to engage and service their customers.
As to the rest of the year, McEvoy's observations about retail opportunities include:
- Gift cards for Mother's Day Mothers now outnumber teens as gift card redeemers, and fathers are not far behind them. Giving a card is no longer thought of as being lazy - quite the opposite applies: mothers think that it's thoughtful to give gift cards from their favourite stores, restaurants and entertainment venues. But it's also a good trend for retailers, as customers generally increase their intended spend level when it is there for the card recipient to see.
As the company suggests, retailers can make the rest of the year just as special as Christmas. Why aren't car makers producing US$25,000 gift cards, redeemable for any model? What about a hidden US$1,000 gift card in a few designer handbags? Incremental sales can be driven through cleverly crafted gift card programmes all year long.
- Enhanced home entertainments Time studies from several sources have shown that home-based activity is increasing, largely due to the increase in entertainment options at home. Young and old consumers alike are spending more time at their laptop or desktop computer, or in front of their home entertainment centres, with enhanced TV, sound, and gaming. There are opportunities for retailers and product manufacturers to cater to this trend, such as "eat-in bought-out prepared food" from smart food specialists such as Whole Foods and Fresh Direct. Such products provide usually external experiences at home, and leave consumers with more home entertainment time.
- Take off ten... Everyone over the age of 35 that the company has interviewed said they feel ten years younger than their real age, even if they don't look that much younger. Consumers, it seems, are more willing to take more risks and are more interested in looking younger than many retailers seem to think. Men's shoe wear is meeting this need, though: ,any stylish loafers and tie-shoes are now made in more comfortable materials than leather, but still with a smart appearance. Expect products and services that deliver a younger appearance and outlook to surge in popularity during the year.
- Dress for crazy weather The "warming and storming" patterns that the whole world has experienced over the past the years are something that fabric manufacturers, vertically integrated apparelists, and retailers must try to get a better handle on. Ideas to help apparel retailers to serve their customers better include: asking reputable weather prediction services to help them plan stocks of outerwear, or even inventing fabrics that self-adjust to degrees of wet, dry, heat or cold. The idea of "dressing for crazy weather" deserves its own store concept, the company suggests.
- Natural selection Consumers are increasingly choosing shopping destinations based on two criteria: convenience and aspiration. Shopping formats that deliver on both criteria will continue to have a competitive advantage over those that don't. For example, winners will certainly include open community centre shopping clusters that have a good mix of aspirational specialists, restaurants, big-box specialists, whole foods, but with no department stores. Such centres provide both what consumers need as well as what they want.