Thursday, April 19, 2012 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||Smartphones, HDTVs Are the Most Planned CE Purchases This Year
Smartphones and HDTVs are the top consumer electronics products U.S. households plan to purchase over the next 12 months, according to a new study by the Consumer Electronics Association.
The 14th Annual Household CE Ownership and Market Potential Study also shows that household penetration rates for tablet computers will see their largest growth this year.
Smartphones will be the most purchased CE device this year. More than one in five (22 percent) U.S. households say they plan to purchase the device in the next 12 months. HDTVs (17 percent) and digital cameras (15 percent) are next on the list.
Mobile computing will continue to be a popular purchase this year as well. Both tablet computers and notebook/laptop computers are expected to be purchased by 14 percent of U.S. households.
Tablet computers were also a leading growth category over the past 12 months. U.S. household penetration levels for tablets increased 14 percentage points from last year and represents the largest increase in the industry. Blu-ray players and digital media players also saw double digit growth in household penetration numbers.
"Consistent with past research and trends we are seeing, tablets and smartphones will continue their dominance in the marketplace over the coming year," said Chris Ely, CEA's manager of industry analysis. "As consumers continue to integrate these mobile connected devices into their everyday lifestyles, we expect to see an increase in ownership of all-in-one devices and related content."
As ownership rates for connected devices increases, more households are subscribing to video rental and streaming services. Nearly 31 million U.S. households (26 percent) will be watching content streamed online and growth will continue this year as nine percent of new households are expected to subscribe to a video rental and streaming service this year.
Televisions remain the most commonly owned CE device, with 99 percent of U.S. households owning at least one TV. The average U.S. household owns 2.9 televisions. Nearly seven in ten (68 percent) U.S. households report owning at least one HDTV. In addition, half (54 percent) of U.S. households report they own at least one LCD TV and approximately one-third (32 percent) report they own at least one plasma TV.
Of the 37 CE devices surveyed, the average U.S. household owns 24, the same number as last year, and spent $961 on consumer electronics over the past 12 months, down more than $200 from last year. The average adult individually reports spending $552 on CE in the past 12 months, down $100.
"The average household continues to own electronics at a high rate, with ownership of all-in-one devices seeing significant growth," said Ely. "Consumers continue to purchase electronics, but we see a decrease in overall spending as they are buying at a bargain, seeking deals and discounts on the devices they desire, and taking advantage of declining price points for certain product categories."
(Source: Consumer Electronics Association, 04/05/12)
||Budget Brands Aim for Piece of Hotel Recovery
Budget hotel chains like Motel 6 and Microtel Inns & Suites by Wyndham are stepping up amenities and branding efforts in the hopes that the travel rebound that's been led by upper-end hotels trickles down to the economy sector.
Motel 6, which is owned by Accor, is using its 50th anniversary this year to promote its approximately 1,100 North American hotels, with plans to upgrade about 100 of them this year with touches such as improved flooring, new signage and flat-screen TVs.
Motel 6 CEO Jim Amorosia said that he expected most of the chain to add the upgrades during the next few years.
Paris-based Accor is looking to spur sales in the Motel 6 brand, whose growth since the recession has trailed that of Accor's other brands.
Last year, Motel 6's same-store sales growth rate of 4.3% lagged Accor's 5.2% growth rate, indicating that demand grew faster at the company's higher-end brands such as Sofitel and Pullman.
Meanwhile, Wyndham Worldwide, which operates or franchises about 300 Microtel properties in the U.S., is stepping up its marketing efforts to both travel agents and the general public to highlight chainwide property improvements that started about five years ago.
Wyndham is also giving a $10,000 credit to hotel owners who upgrade signage -- the company's logo was recently altered for the first time in the chain's 25-year history -- and estimates that all Microtels will have upgraded signage by next summer.
The improvements at Microtel appear to be already paying off. In 2011, Microtel's revenue per available room (RevPAR) increased about 9%, compared with Wyndham's companywide RevPAR growth of 7.1%.
The primarily leisure chain is looking to attract more business travelers to boost revenue, and Rui Barros, brand senior vice president for Wyndham's Microtel, Howard Johnson and Travelodge chains, said, "We have the product to support it."
Both companies are hoping that the upgrades make their mark in the form of higher occupancy, as neither company has a lot of wiggle room when it comes to room rates.
Motel 6 has long marketed itself as the lowest priced national hotel brand, while Microtel's average room rate last year was $59.07, beating out only Super 8 and Knights Inn among Wyndham's 14 brands.
Both chains operate in a budget sector that so far has trailed most of the other higher-end sectors when it comes to the rebound in U.S. spending on lodging.
While overall U.S. hotel occupancy and room rates last year increased 4.4 percentage points and 3.7%, respectively, economy hotels' occupancy and room rates advanced 3.7 percentage points and 2.2%, respectively, according to Smith Travel Research.
STR said that this year, RevPAR at U.S. economy hotels will likely increase 3.1%, lagging the predicted 4.3% growth rate across all U.S. hotel sectors and substantially less than the 7.4% RevPAR growth rate forecast for luxury hotels.
"It makes sense that these hotel brands across the U.S. are trying to attract new travelers, and some of the owners were probably a little lax in their property-improvement plans over the past few years," said Jan Freitag, senior vice president at STR.
"It's just a question of time until we see the room-rate gains at the lower end, and whether the investment makes sense."
Motel 6 and Microtel aren't the only economy brands with upgrades in the works.
Earlier this year, Choice Hotels International said it would institute upgrades for its Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites brands and may deflag many as 10% of the brand's lesser-performing hotels.
The company estimates that about 70% of the company's approximately 2,000 Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites hotels will complete the improvements to their bedrooms, bathrooms and public spaces by 2015.
The cost of the improvements can add up, especially for an owner of a relatively small hotel. Motel 6's Amorosia estimated that his chain's upgrades will range from $3,000 a room to $5,000 a room in materials alone, putting the price tag for improvements of an 80-room Motel 6 as high as $80,000, excluding labor.
Still, Amorosia said the 100 improved hotels are a mix of company-owned and franchised properties, adding that there hasn't been a problem getting hotel owners to invest in the improvements.
"The owner-operated group was already putting in the improvements before we required franchisees to put them in," Amorosia said. "They saw the returns we were getting."
He added that there may be payback in more ways than just occupancy or room rate, as some of the upgrades involved making Motel 6 properties more environmentally sensitive by adding features such as solar power, double- and triple-paned windows and low-flow showerheads, cutting utility costs in the process.
As for Microtel, which was founded in 1987 and which Wyndham acquired four years ago, Barros is looking for the chain's improvements and marketing scheme to get some customers to "buy down" from the midscale segment.
"As long as we can provide an exceptional product with excellent service, there's no reason Microtel couldn't steal share from a Holiday Inn Express, Hampton or other midscale product," Barros said.
(Source: Travel Weekly, 04/17/12)
||Prom Spending Rises to Average of $1,078 This Spring, Survey Says
Prom is the new wedding, and spending on the springtime high school dance is climbing within reach of celebrations of holy matrimony.
Mary Stirsman says she couldn't imagine buying her 17-year-old daughter Madison the $500 dress she found at an Indianapolis boutique on one recent shopping trip, because Stirsman only spent $800 on her own wedding dress.
But a higher price tag is the new norm for an increasingly lavish event for which teens and their families are dropping loads of cash on one-of-a-kind dresses and tuxes, limos or party buses, hair, makeup, jewelry, flowers, dinner and dance tickets.
This year, families with teens are expected to spend an average of $1,078 on prom, up from $807 last year, according to data from a survey released by Visa that includes results based on a thousand telephone interviews conducted at the end of last month.
"This is social-arms-race spending. It's extreme," says Jason Alderman, director of Visa's financial education programs.
Spending has been driven to never-before-seen levels as teens are influenced by everything from celebrities and reality TV to the prevalence of social media, experts say.
Linda Korman, advertising director for Seventeen Prom and Teen Prom, says teen girls view prom as their "red-carpet moment" and are "heavily influenced" by celebrities who walk actual red carpets in designer gowns.
"It's a rite of passage, and there's a legacy of how you look at your prom," she says. "Girls want to dress to impress."
Maria Sanchez-Ferry of Las Vegas spent $400 on a sequined teal dress from a bridal store for her 17-year-old daughter, Reyna Sanchez, and another $120 on alterations. The prom is at the end of the month, and while she says the event is turning into the most costly of all the high school dances Reyna, a senior, has attended, she doesn't mind spending more.
"This is her senior prom, and I wanted it to be special," Sanchez-Ferry says.
A coming-of-age event
With more adults marrying later, in many ways, prom has replaced weddings, debutante balls and coming-out parties as the formal occasion of a young adult's life, says Kit Yarrow, a marketing and psychology professor who co-authored Gen BuY, a book on Gen Y buying behavior.
This is especially evident in the Northeast and South, which have a tradition of formal coming-of-age parties. Average spending by families with teens attending prom is considerably higher than in other parts of the country, with families in the South expected to spend about $1,047, while Northeastern families will spend an average of almost $2,000, according to the Visa survey. In the West and Midwest, families will spend an average of $744 and $696, respectively, the survey found.
The disparity in spending across the country, as well as the increase in overall spending, might be due, in part, to the degree to which parents are involved in their kids' social lives, Yarrow says.
"Especially in really affluent households, the parents, in a way, use their kids to proclaim their stature to other parents," she says. "They use their kids to communicate to the community who they are."
Making an impression
But kids themselves are also concerned with the impression they're communicating, and for teens who have grown up sharing their lives on Facebook and other social-media platforms, appearances have become even more important, say Yarrow and Alison Jatlow Levy, a retail strategist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon.
Girls' sources of style and inspiration have evolved with greater access to information through fashion blogs and other websites that put an emphasis on individuality, Levy says. "There's a general sense of people wanting to be differentiated," she says. "Going to a national chain and getting the same dress that 18 other girls have is not a chance for me to differentiate myself or express my individuality, which is such an important part of my social experience today."
Splurging on an expensive dress or getting your hair and nails done isn't just about personal expression; it's about getting attention, Yarrow says.
"The bar is higher for what it takes to get attention, and therefore, (teens) really need to have something exclusive, original, unique to them in order to get attention from other people," Yarrow says, and that often comes with a higher price tag.
The "peer pressure to one up each other over and over," as Alderman says, seems to be affecting less affluent families the most. Parents in one of the lowest income brackets from the Visa survey reported planning to spend the most on prom. Those who make between $20,000 and $29,999 a year will spend more than $2,600, twice the national average, while families in high income brackets plan to spend between $700 and $1,000.
"Appearance is everything, and for prom, appearance really matters," Levy says. "You'll probably see people spending a little beyond their means to make the right impression. It's like your Cinderella night, so you pull out all the stops."
(Source: USA Today, 04/13/12)
Daily Sales Tip: Master the Critical Skills
If you're going to sell more every year, you need to get better every year. Let's look at this a different way. If what you are currently doing would produce the results you are looking for, the results should have already shown up.
So what skills should you focus on improving? Start by honestly answering a few of these questions:
-- How much preparation are you putting into each call?
-- Are the questions you ask thought-provoking or mind-numbing?
-- Do your ideas have value for the prospect or do you find yourself just pitching the "latest" widget from the factory?
-- When was the last time you got feedback on your presentation skills?
-- What are the top three obstacles prospects throw at you?
-- How do you clearly and concisely address these obstacles?
-- What are you doing every week to help build better relationships?
It takes courage to admit you could be a better sales rep and confidence to believe you can change. It takes nothing to create excuses.
There is an abundance of sales books, tele-seminars, podcasts, webinars, and sales training programs available today. What are you waiting for?
Source: Sales trainer/consultant Tim Wackel