Tuesday, September 4, 2012 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||New Survey Finds Return of Pre-Recession Travel Habits
Leisure travelers are doing less of the things that characterized the economic hardship of recent years and are now adopting more behaviors that confirm the importance of travel in their emerging lifestyles, according to the new MMGY Global/Harrison Group 2012 Portrait of American Travelers, which surveys a nationally representative survey of 2,527 U.S. households.
The annual survey reveals that while the average number of overnight leisure trips taken during the past year has remained essentially unchanged versus the previous year, the motivations underlying these getaways are evolving. "Trading down," "staycations" and other cost-conscious travel behaviors that emerged during the Great Recession have waned, and the new findings bode well for a boost in 2013 travel spending thanks to a renewed interest in quality experiences that Americans deem "worth it."
According to the survey, today's travelers place a high value on the emotional power of travel. More than nine in 10 travelers agree, "The memories I get from my vacations make the trip worth it." This and other emotional connections echo throughout the study, suggesting this sentiment is the primary reason for renewed interest in travel by consumers who endured years of having less money and time to do so.
Vacationers' top goals for the coming year speak to this connection -- they want to see more of the world and spend more time with family and friends (37 and 29 percent, respectively). In addition, 75 percent of leisure travelers agree, "Taking a vacation is the event I most look forward to each year," and fully half would even take a vacation by themselves to "get away from it all," if given the opportunity.
Today's travelers also are more likely to trade up when they travel. More travelers prefer upscale hotels and resorts this year than last, with 26 percent of vacationers preferring luxury lodging versus just 15 percent in 2011, a statistically significant boost.
Travelers also increasingly place a premium on the convenience associated with access to full hotel services: eight in 10 now prefer a full-service hotel or resort (with a restaurant), compared to 75 percent just two years ago.
Today's travelers also emphasize the experience versus the cost. Travelers in all annual household income groups now value "quality" over "savings." They are more willing to pay full price "as long as I am guaranteed the quality and service I deserve."
In what the survey calls a surprising departure from the travel planning scenarios that prevailed during the recent recession, today's travelers choose the destination (34 percent) and type of trip (33 percent) first, before setting a budget (18 percent) and searching for deals (eight percent).
The number of travelers engaged in general cost-cutting shopping behaviors has also declined. Significantly fewer vacationers now wait for items to go on sale, purchase generic or less expensive brands, or maintain a membership in a travel rewards program.
But perceived "value for the price" remains the most influential factor for nine out of 10 travelers when choosing lodging. The influence of "value" on hotel and resort selection has coincidentally increased with a decline in the influence of "room rates," suggesting that travelers really do make a distinction between "price" and "value."
Today's travelers also focus more on family. "Togethering" vacations are on the rise in what remains an uncertain economy, with 43 percent of leisure travelers saying family getaways were the primary purpose of one or more leisure trips during the past year, compared to 40 percent just two years ago.
This renewed familial focus has also given way to a significant boost in multigenerational travel -- 23 percent of all active leisure travelers are now grandparents, and 37 percent of those took at least one vacation with their grandchildren during the past 12 months (compared to just 32 percent in 2011).
Travelers surveyed also changed the types of trips they took last year. More travelers enjoyed both trips focused on outdoor activities as well as city-based vacations last year, with each type of getaway reflecting a two percentage-point rise since 2011 (46 and 25 percent, respectively).
While trips focused on outdoor activities rose in popularity, less-active general sightseeing vacations declined significantly, dropping from 29 percent in 2011 to just 26 percent today. Gambling vacations and trips to see sporting events also declined in popularity.
Travelers also showed a shift in destination interest. While the most popular U.S. states retained their appeal this year (California, Florida, Hawaii, New York and Alaska), the allure of several other domestic destinations has increased. States like Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona and Tennessee saw decreases in interest, while Louisiana, Michigan, Oregon and Washington, D.C., were the beneficiaries of increased interest.
Consistent with the preferences cited earlier, many destinations that feature outdoor recreation now enjoy a statistically significant rise in interest, such as mountain areas like Utah mountain resorts, Lake Tahoe (Calif. and Nev.), Gatlinburg (Tenn.), and the Pocono Mountains (Pa.), as well as coastal spots like the Mississippi and Florida Gulf Coasts, Atlantic City (N.J.), the Outer Banks (N.C.) and South Carolina shoreline.
Other destinations with rising popularity are those that offer unique visitor experiences such as historic Colonial Williamsburg (Va.) and St. Augustine (Fla.), wine-focused Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley (Calif.) and glitzy hotspot Las Vegas.
International destinations with rising interest in visitation include Africa, the Middle East and Oceania (Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands, etc.). But fewer U.S. travelers are interested in international trips overall, dropping to nine percent of all leisure travelers today (versus 11 percent last year).
Travelers today also use mobile media differently. The usage of tablets has exploded during the past two years. While less than one in 10 leisure travelers accessed the Internet through an iPad or tablet computer in 2011, this has increased nearly four-fold to 27 percent in 2012. When comparing the activities performed by leisure travelers on tablets versus smartphones, travelers now use tablets more frequently when comparing prices, making air travel, lodging reservations, or purchasing tickets to attractions and other activities.
Smartphones are more likely to be used for activities on the go, such as finding nearby restaurants and shops, navigation, scanning QR codes, or using check-in features or apps such as Facebook Places and Foursquare.
Travelers today also exhibit a rise in optimism. U.S. travelers now embrace a more positive view of the world, no doubt another reason for their renewed interest in rediscovering the emotional benefits of travel. Specifically, many more leisure travelers now say they are extremely/very optimistic about "their own future," "the future of their children," "their jobs," "their companies" and "the world in general" than just two years ago.
The MMGY Global/Harrison Group 2012 Portrait of American Travelers is a national survey of 2,527 U.S. households. The results provide a detailed examination of the impact of the current economic environment, social values and emerging media habits of Americans with an annual household income of $50,000 or more who have taken at least one overnight trip of 75 miles or more from home during the previous 12 months.
(Source: Travel Pulse, 08/28/12)
||Hollywood Banks on James Bond, 'Twilight' to Undo Summer Slide
Hollywood studios may need to count on holiday-season releases, including a new "James Bond," to head off a third year of shrinking U.S. box-office sales after summer films failed to match the 2011 record.
Studios will end the summer with $4.27 billion in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales, down 3% from the high of $4.4 billion set in 2011, Hollywood.com Box Office said last week. They're still up for the year so far.
Filmmakers had more misses this summer, as movies including the Universal Pictures action adventure "Battleship" and Tom Cruise's "Rock of Ages" from Warner Bros. hurt results. There were also fewer surprise hits. A year ago, sales were bolstered by "The Help" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." The researcher counts revenue from the first weekend in May through Sept. 3.
"It certainly puts additional pressure on the fall and holiday periods to do well," Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com Box Office, said in an interview. "It's all product-driven. You can't have any misfires if you want to break a record."
Lions Gate Entertainment will release the final film in the "Twilight" teen-vampire series on Nov. 16.
Other major releases in late 2012 include "Skyfall," the new Bond film scheduled for Nov. 9 release by Sony and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. MGM is also a partner in the Dec. 14 picture "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," joining with Time Warner's Warner Bros. to produce three films based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Warner Bros. leads the U.S. box office with 2012 revenue of $1.2 billion as of Aug. 26, according to Box Office Mojo, an industry researcher. The studio's top film is "The Dark Knight Rises." Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures is second, at just less than $1.2 billion.
The top film of the summer was "Marvel's The Avengers" from Walt Disney Co., which has collected almost $618 million in domestic sales, according to Box Office Mojo.
Total 2012 domestic revenue stood at $7.43 billion as of Aug. 26, up 3.8% from the same period a year earlier, according to Hollywood.com. Attendance is up 2.6%. Full-year 2011 sales were $10.2 billion, down 3.4% from 2010. That year, revenue dropped less than 1% to $10.57 billion from 2009's $10.6 billion.
"Battleship," made for an estimated $209 million, took in $65.2 million in the U.S. and Canada and $303 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. "Rock of Ages," with a $75 million production budget, had $38.5 million in domestic sales and a global total of $50.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo.
(Source: Advertising Age, 08/29/12)
||Merchants Increase Fashionable Athletic Wear Offerings
Everywhere you look there's an athlete on the go.
Or so it seems from what people are wearing on the streets: running shoes, compression tees, bike shorts, yoga pants. The trend is a winner for a bunch of brands and the retailers that are scrambling to carry them or their own labels to meet demand.
Active wear is the fastest growing apparel sector and performance wear is the fastest growing sub-segment, industry observers say. Overall active wear sales in the U.S. grew 9% in the 12 months ending in June, according to The NPD Group, to more than $30 billion.
"Total apparel is growing 3.2% and women's apparel isn't growing much," said NPD Group chief retail analyst Marshal Cohen. "So you can see why this is such a healthy business. Five percent growth is considered great growth; 9% is considered phenomenal."
Sporting apparel and footwear chains are natural-born players in the arena. And "all of them, Lululemon, Hibbett, Foot Locker, are benefiting," said analyst Sam Poser of Sterne Agee.
So is Gap, with its fast-growing women's active wear concept Athleta, and Target, with its proprietary C9 by Champion line, soon to sport a standalone store in San Francisco.
A number of mass-market and department store players also are trying to catch up by expanding assortments.
"It's all about how good the product is and the product continues to improve," said Poser.
Some major department stores have started carrying products from fast-growing performance brand Under Armour, says Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners.
"They know their customers are wearing the stuff," he said.
Fabrics and fits are getting more technical and lighter to enhance performance, even if not all customers are training for marathons, triathlons, mud runs and adventure races.
Enhancements include compression and wicking in apparel and lighter weights in running shoes, not to mention brighter colors, part of the new rule that products ought not to forget about fashion.
"We support a high number of end uses, whether running, yoga, tennis, swimming," said Athleta's senior vice president and general manager, Scott Key, adding that a number of "performance lifestyle" items can be worn after workouts.
"We put tremendous fashion sensibility into performance products," he said. "Our customers want to look cute in them."
Gap opened 11 Athleta stores in the last quarter alone, more than any of its other concepts, and is about halfway to its goal of hitting 50 stores by the end of 2013. The first store opened two years ago.
Key says Athleta is riding the wave of women's growing participation in sports and healthy living, and points to the Summer Olympic Games as evidence.
"It was the first time at an Olympics that more women competed than men," Key said. "They brought home 29 of the 46 medals for the U.S."
One of the medals went to the women's water polo team. Athleta was one of its sponsors, for the performance wear players used on land to prepare for the pool.
Women's active wear in the U.S. grew faster than men's in the last year, with $13.7 billion in sales to men's $12.7 billion, says The NPD Group. Children's, a smaller part of the pie, grew even faster.
Some say Athleta is running after Lululemon, a hot concept from Canada expanding on U.S. turf. It's staked a claim in pricey yoga pants and other workout gear of its own design.
Lululemon sales jumped 53% to $285.7 million in the quarter ending April 29 vs. a year earlier, with same-store sales up 25%. Athleta has not disclosed sales, but Johnson thinks they're growing more than 40%.
"Both are doing well. Athleta has a little bit of a broader appeal. It doesn't take itself quite as seriously as Lululemon," he said.
Generalists such as Dick's Sporting Goods and Hibbett play the field with a broad array of fitness apparel and footwear from popular brands such as Nike, Reebok's Adidas, Under Armour and North Face, a unit of VF Corp.
At the Summer Games, logos of active wear brands were as much on display as the athletes. Adidas got a lot of mileage when the stylish Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton showed up in Adidas Team GB attire, including blazing red Adidas sneakers.
U.S. sales of running shoes jumped 14.4% in the 12 months ended in June, to more than $4 billion, according to NPD.
Dick's just opened its first standalone running store, True Runner, in Pittsburgh. It plans to open a second store in October.
Since its 2004 launch, Target has expanded C9 by Champion into a $1 billion brand for families, adding performance products in expanded floor space. A premium women's line was launched last fall, followed by a men's premium line in the spring. They still sell for under $50 to keep true to Target's value focus.
The brand's first stand-alone store -- C9 Active Apparel -- is set to open in October, on street level below a City Target store opening at San Francisco's Metreon complex.
Target will take cues from customers before deciding whether to roll out other C9 stores, Thomas says.
"C9 would allow Target to develop a free-standing, small-footprint strategy that could travel into any mall or strip center in America," said Dick Seesel, principal of Retailing In Focus. "To me it signals it's a business they clearly believe in."
Kohl's active and fitness apparel were bright spots in an otherwise disappointing quarter, outperforming other areas, thanks to robust sales of Nike, Adidas and proprietary brands Fila Sport and Tek Gear.
Not to be left behind, Wal-Mart is carrying more performance wear, Johnson says, "But it's not as far along as Target."
While Target has carried C9 since 2004, Gap acquired Athleta in 2008, when it was a catalog company with a long and loyal following. Gap expanded the brand online and opened the first store in 2010. Boston's recent opening was the 23rd.
Athleta products are designed in-house by women who also happen to be athletes. They often test run them on trails near their offices in Petaluma, Calif., a 45-minute drive north of Gap's San Francisco headquarters.
Will fatigue in the category set in as players try to keep pace with past milestones? Analysts say the cycle still has plenty of room to run. But the category could get more crowded.
"The overall industry will continue to get bigger as other sportswear brands see the success of the athletic wear business and jump on the bandwagon," said Cohen. "So there will be more competition."
(Source: Investor's Business Daily, 08/28/12)
Daily Sales Tip: Getting Referrals
Here are few things to keep in mind when asking for referrals...
Start with people you know
It is much easier to ask people you know for a referral -- providing they know exactly what you do and the results you help others achieve.
Ask recent satisfied customers
Your most recent satisfied customers are a great referral source. After you have completed a contract or job with a customer, take a moment to remind them how you helped them and follow up by asking them for a referral.
Most customers who are completely happy with your solution will be more than willing to give you a referral.
Don't rush it
Just because you have met someone at a networking event does not mean that you have earned the right to ask for a referral.
You will get much better results by demonstrating the value you offer BEFORE asking them to connect you with someone else. This includes referring them to someone else or helping them solve a business problem. As Bob Burg says, "Go-givers get."
It may sound simple, but too many people focus solely on getting referrals instead of giving them.
What about you?
Source: Sales consultant/trainer Kelley Robertson