Monday, November 19, 2012

Retailers and Black Friday 2012 sales

Target Black Friday
In a recent Business Pulse survey by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, readers were asked, "What do you think of Target and other retailers opening their stores at 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night?"

The responses provide insight into readers' thoughts:
  • Seventy-seven percent chose "Hate it! American consumerism has run amok!"
  • Ten percent chose "Love it! No more sleep deprivation"
  • Eight percent chose "I prefer 5 a.m. — when the wimpy shoppers are sleeping"
  • Six percent chose "I'm shopping on Thanksgiving, but I'm doing it online"
While I understand that retailers want to get a jump-start on bringing in revenues for the all-important fourth quarter, they also need to be cautious about creeping into Thanksgiving. After all, there are reasons for national holidays, and giving people a break from work to spend time with their families is one of them. We don't want Thanksgiving to go away and become Black Thursday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The end of monthly same-store sales?

Target logo
Each month, many retailers report same-store sales, which reveal the sales at stores open at least a year. The idea behind these statistics, according to Thomson Reuters (one of the compilers of the data), is "to examine underlying growth trends at a retailer, since it excludes store openings and closings. It also allows comparisons between retail chains that are aggressively expanding and those expanding at a slower pace."

In the last couple months, however, two notable retailers have decided to stop reporting monthly same-store sales:  Target and Kohl's. Both have decided to move to reporting quarterly same-store sales. They are in good company; Walmart doesn't report monthly same-store sales either.

In Target's case, the retailer said that reporting same-store sales quarterly "will create a longer-term focus and provide greater understanding of our sales results in the context of our overall financial performance."

Kohl's said that it will switch to reporting sales results quarterly "to align with the wishes of its investors and the practice of the majority of its retail peers."

Having worked seven years in the public relations department of a major retailer, I understand why it makes more sense for retailers to switch to reporting same-store sales on a quarterly basis. Each month, management at my retailer had to determine why the same-store sales changed. Sometimes it was because Easter had shifted a week. Other times it was because of El Niño or La Niña. Hopefully reporting same-store sales on a quarterly basis will be able to provide a truer comparison.

So, who does that leave as retailers reporting monthly same-store sales? Here's the list:
  1. The Buckle
  2. The Gap
  3. The Limited
  4. Ross Stores
  5. TJX Cos.
  6. Bon-Ton
  7. Costco
  8. Fred's
  9. Macy's Inc.
  10. Stage Stores
  11. SteinMart
  12. JW Nordstrom
  13. Cato Corp
  14. Wet Seal
  15. Zumiez
  16. Walgreen
  17. Rite Aid
While there are significant retailers on this list, there are many noteworthy ones not reporting as well. Take that into account when reading the headlines about monthly same-store sales. Perhaps eventually it just might shift to quarterly same-store sales altogether.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Meet the media

Bill Hudson, Stephanie March and Thomas Lee share media relations tips.
At an Oct. 31 Minnesota Public Relations Society of America breakfast event, attendees learned a few tricks about connecting with the media while enjoying treats.

Moderator Dr. Michael Porter of the University of St. Thomas started out the panel discussion with an appropriate Halloween question, "What is the worst PR nightmare pitch that you have received?"

While Bill Hudson of WCCO-TV and Stephanie March of Mpls. St. Paul Magazine refused to comment, Thomas Lee of the Star Tribune shared his interesting story.

"My worst public relations nightmare was getting a pitch from a company promoting a product called Flatulence-D, with deals with farting after gastric bypass surgery," said Lee. "The person really had no clue what I wrote about."

Among the tips offered by Hudson, March and Lee were:
  • Don't pitch more than one reporter at the same media outlet.
  • Read the reporter's stories and what they have written about before pitching.
  • Think in terms of both visuals and sound when pitching TV reporters.
  • Learn the reporter's preferences in terms of connecting via e-mail or phone call.
The panelists agreed that media relations is about relationships.

"The best time to get in touch with a reporter is when you have nothing to pitch," said Lee. "You're in it for the long haul." In the video above, Lee talks about how he uses ProfNet to find sources.

One attendee asked a question about connecting with reporters via social media. That turned out to be an individualized response. Lee primarily uses Twitter to find out about stories, while March is open to being pitched via Twitter. Hudson, however, isn't even on Twitter, so phone and e-mail are best for him.

How can public relations people stand out from the clutter? Attendees learned one trick:  send a handwritten note. It will get read.
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