Retailers won't have to worry about high gas prices keeping potential customers away, but should focus on letting customer data and demand inform their autumn sales.
Posted Jul 28, 2006
Despite the rising price of gas, most people say they won't be cutting back on their back-to-school spending this year. According to a new survey by Accenture, 76 percent of consumers say the cost of gas won't affect how much money they spend. Three of four consumers won't spend less, but 32 percent did say they are likely to make fewer trips and go to fewer stores in search of merchandise.
The survey of 500 U.S. consumers also revealed that shoppers would be more willing to forego desired products in favor of those that are on sale. Twenty-four percent said high gas prices would cause them to buy more sale items than in prior years. The majority of those planning back-to-school shopping trips will be buying from mass merchants and nearly 75 percent of those respondents cited reasonable prices as the main reason for doing so. Nearly half (49 percent) said they would do their shopping at an office supply store while 37 percent will shop in a department store.
"With consumers making fewer trips and shopping in fewer stores, it is even more important for retailers to get their inventory and assortment right," says Janet Hoffman, managing partner of Accenture's North American retail practice. "Retailers must give customers a positive store experience from the front door through the checkout lane."
When asked to identify their top complaints about retailers, 64 percent of respondents cited crowded stores with long lines and more than half (58 percent) cited out-of-stock items. Respondents suggested that retailers address these problems by focusing on increased product selection and ensured in-stock items (51 percent) and by increasing the number of checkout lanes (40 percent).
To deal with problems associated with shopping offline, 32 percent of respondents plan to purchase their back-to-school items on the Web, according to the study. As for previewing some of the hot items this year, 98 percent of respondents said they plan to spend most of their money on clothing and related accessories. The largest percentage of back-to-school shoppers, 38 percent, expect to spend between $101 to $200 on clothing, while 29 percent plan to spend between $201 to $500.
Retailers should prepare for the upcoming back-to-school blitz by drawing on consumer information from previous sales, marketing campaigns, and customer feedback, and using that data to guide and plan their upcoming sales, such as combining supply chain management and CRM data. Hoffman says retailers that "understand the big picture about who is shopping their stores and who influences what they buy will be the big winners in the back-to-school season."
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