Thursday, May 2, 2013 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||Ford, Nissan Lead Gains as Trucks, New Models Propel April Sales
Rising demand for Detroit 3 pickups helped lift U.S. auto sales 9 percent last month, while surprising declines at Toyota and Volkswagen took some steam out of the market's recovery.
The seasonally adjusted annual sales rate came in at 14.9 million, marking the first time since October that the SAAR failed to top 15 million.
Strong demand for large pickups and new models propelled Nissan Motor Co., Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Chrysler Group to double-digit sales gains in April.
Among other major automakers, Honda Motor Co. and the Hyundai Kia Group posted smaller gains. Toyota Motor Corp. posted a sales decline for the first time in 18 months, and Volkswagen Group dropped for the first time in 31 months.
U.S. car and light truck sales were forecast to climb 11 percent for the month to 1.31 million, based on the average estimate of nine analysts polled by Bloomberg.
The SAAR had been forecast to rise to 15.2 million from 14.1 million in April 2012.
Light-truck demand rose 11 percent last month, outpacing the 3 percent gain in car deliveries. Light-truck sales were led by large pickup and small crossover demand.
Truck sales are getting a lift from the steady rebound in the U.S. housing market and other construction activity.
April is traditionally a strong month and a bellwether for the industry's health.
U.S. light-vehicles sales have climbed 7 percent through April, and analysts had seen sales reaching 15.3 million to 15.4 million for the year, up from 14.5 million for all of 2012.
Easing credit conditions, favorable financing, pent-up demand, and new models continue to draw consumers to new-vehicle showrooms.
Still, U.S. job growth remains sluggish enough to prevent a rapid rise in annual light-vehicles sales to 16 million units or more, where the market stayed for nine years starting in 1999, some analysts say.
The Detroit 3 -- benefitting from the rise in light truck demand, notably large pickups -- gained market share again last month.
Ford's April sales climbed 18 percent, fueled by a 21 percent gain in car deliveries and 16 percent increases in utility vehicle and truck volume, the company said.
Ford division deliveries, bolstered by the redesigned Fusion sedan and Escape crossover, rose 18 percent while Lincoln volume rebounded, rising 21 percent. Sales of the F-series pickup rose 24 percent to 59,030 units.
Retail volume climbed 27 percent last month, Ford said.
"We are working harder than ever to keep pace with record demand for our all-new, fuel-efficient Fusion and Escape -- with sales growth particularly strong on the coasts," Ken Czubay, head of U.S. marketing, sales and service for Ford, said in a statement.
GM reported an 11 percent increase in April sales, with each of the company's four brands posting gains, led by Cadillac, up 34 percent. Sales rose 11 percent at Chevrolet and Buick.
GM said its retail sales rose 10 percent and fleet volume advanced 16 percent.
Demand for the large Chevrolet Silverado pickup climbed 28 percent to 39,395 units.
"Car-buying conditions are strong and will continue to release pent-up demand," Kurt McNeil, head of U.S. sales operations for GM, said in a statement.
Nissan Motor Co.'s sales rose 23 percent to 87,847, with volume at the Nissan division rising 25 percent and Infiniti deliveries advancing 10 percent.
The company said the increase was driven by strong gains in retail sales of the redesigned Altima mid-sized and Sentra compact sedans, and the Rogue crossover.
Nissan, aiming to pop up in more Internet searches by online shoppers, is also reducing prices on seven of 18 U.S. models.
The price cuts run from 2.7 percent, or $580, on the Altima, to 10.7 percent, or $4,400, on the Armada large SUV, Nissan said. Prices are also being cut on the Sentra, Juke subcompact crossover, Murano mid-sized crossover, Rogue and the Maxima full-sized sedan.
Sales of the Nissan brand had dropped 2 percent this year through March.
"Nissan has made clear they want to gain U.S. share and be more competitive in key segments," said Alec Gutierrez, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
Strong sales of the Ram pickup and Dodge models helped Chrysler Group post an 11 percent increase in April sales, extending the automaker's streak of U.S. gains to 37 months.
Car sales rose 5 percent and light-truck demand increased 14 percent, Chrysler said.
The company's sales were led by the Ram brand, up 49 percent on a surge in pickup demand, and Dodge, where deliveries climbed 18 percent.
Ram pickup sales jumped 49 percent to 31,409 units last month, and have advanced 23 percent year-to-date to 109,003 units, Chrysler said.
Sales rose 2 percent at Jeep and 1 percent at Fiat. Volume dropped 13 percent at the Chrysler brand. It was Jeep's first gain after six months of declining sales.
Dodge was aided by the new Dart, with sales of 8,099, and a 65-percent gain for the Durango SUV and double-digit advances for the Journey crossover and Challenger.
VW said sales of its namesake brand dropped 10 percent last month, its first monthly drop since Aug. 2010.
The company cited challenging conditions and competition in the compact and mid-sized car segments for double-digit declines in Passat and Jetta volumes.
At Audi, April volume climbed 14 percent to 13,157 units.
Toyota Motor Sales also said its sales fell in April. They
were down 1 percent, after rising 9 percent through March.
Sales at the Toyota division slipped 2 percent and the Camry sedan, the top-selling U.S. car for 11 years, was outsold for the second consecutive month, this time by the Accord.
Lexus volume edged up 3 percent last month, Toyota Motor Sales said.
April sales increased 7 percent at Honda Motor Co., with volume at the Honda brand rising 7 percent and Acura deliveries advancing 14 percent. Higher sales of the CR-V crossover, Odyssey minivan and Civic compact were offset by a drop in Accord deliveries, Honda said.
Hyundai Motor America, amid tight supplies, reported April sales rose 2 percent to 63,315. Sales of Kia were virtually unchanged.
Mercedes-Benz brand sales climbed 5% in April, while BMW sales were 10% higher.
Subaru sales jumped 25% during April, with Mazda transactions declining 8%.
A slight rise in consumer confidence and lower gasoline prices, compared to April 2012, also lifted sales last month, analysts said.
April sales started strongly with a slight dip around mid-month, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas said Monday.
"Leasing activity continued to remain strong while 'cash on the hood' did not increase materially" last month, Jonas said in a report. "Despite declining recently, gas prices remain in a sweet spot to continue to drive sales of new fuel efficient models."
(Source: Automotive News, 05/01/13)
||For Retailers, Celebrity Brands Are an Attractive Lure
In a Bid to Corner the Lucrative Millennial Customer, Department Stores Turn Up the Star Power
Sixteen-year-old Gabriel Aguilar, of Chicago, an avid shopper, prefers to patronize specialty shops such as Urban Outfitters or Forever 21 for party and hang-out-with-friends apparel.
Sears? Not a chance.
"Every time I think of Sears, I think of a washing machine," he said. "They barely have clothing in their commercials, and I never see their commercials on the things that we watch."
But when the Muchin College Prep sophomore learned that Sears soon would be offering skinny jeans branded with pop star Adam Levine's name, his interest was sufficiently piqued -- enough that he said he'll be checking out the goods.
Sears and a number of other department stores are hoping they can convince Aguilar and other millennials that they're worthy of a second look, and, ideally, their lifelong loyalty. They're beefing up mobile shopping tools and bringing in more affordable, fashionable merchandise as well as signing up celebrities to sell their wares.
The goal: winning over a coveted generation of those born after 1980 who spend about $430 billion annually on discretionary items, according to The Boston Consulting Group.
"Right now, all retailers are going after the millennial customer. They have to, because it represents the future of their business," said Carol Spieckerman, president and CEO of Newmarketbuilders, a retail consultancy.
Late last year, Macy's rolled out more than 20 brands, including lines inspired by Madonna and her teenage daughter, Lourdes Leon, known as Lola, and Marilyn Monroe aimed at the younger set, which the company acknowledged cares about "trends, style and value."
In February, Nordstrom revamped its trend-driven Savvy women's department, bringing in new merchandise and lowering the average price point to $50 from about $100.
"We thought we had the opportunity to be more relevant to that truly trend-driven customer who wanted us to be more accessible in price, and that was a hurdle for us before in that department," said Nordstrom spokesman Colin Johnson.
This month, Sears launched a business unit dedicated to signing up celebrities to sell their wares, including trendy dresses and jeans. First on its list, pop stars Nicki Minaj and Levine, who moonlight on the popular TV shows "American Idol" and "The Voice," respectively.
Retail experts say department stores have a ways to go. They have never "owned" the millennial customer, who has typically been the primary focus of specialty shops such as H&M and Old Navy with their cheap-chic merchandise. A recent report by WSL Strategic Retail, a New York-based consultancy, found that 79 percent of millennials shop at specialty stores and 52 percent shop at department stores.
Celebrity branding isn't new. Designers have long competed to win the affections of Hollywood stars. But the embrace of social media among millennials has opened up new opportunities for retailers to capitalize on celebrities' star wattage.
Sears, which has been suffering from sluggish sales for years, has seen some success recently selling apparel with celebrity headliners such as actress Sofia Vergara and the Kardashian sisters reality TV trio. With Minaj and Levine, officials are seeking to capitalize on the mix of music, fashion and Hollywood.
"Any retailer that taps into that celebrity taps into their transmedia presence -- online, radio, TV, movies, Twitter, everywhere," Spieckerman said.
Still, Spieckerman and other industry watchers are predicting it will be an uphill climb for Sears, which is better known for its home appliances than its fashion offerings.
Sears' customer is not a fashion customer, according to Roseanne Morrison, fashion director of New York-based retail consultancy Tobe.
"They are trying to envision themselves in different milieus to make it happen. So I don't know. It'll be a big challenge for them," she said. "The jury is out."
Retailers also have to do more to keep millennials coming back, said Wendy Liebmann, CEO of WSL Strategic Retail. The clothing and the in-store "experience" have to be right, she added.
"There are just too many places for younger consumers to shop," Liebmann said.
Macy's has created entire divisions devoted to young shoppers: Its Mstylelab is dedicated to customers ages 13 to 22, and Impulse is aimed at 19- to 30-year-olds.
It has created private (Macy's-only) labels such as urban-inspired denim line G Star Raw and the skateboarder driven Comune to draw in millennials with varied interests. And it also has the likes of Taylor Swift, P. Diddy and Justin Bieber selling its merchandise.
"We're a destination for prom and for the first interview suit, said Martine Reardon, Macy's chief marketing officer. "It's the 14- to 30-year-old and every year between that's important."
Macy's is also using promotional events, such as a recent book-signing with Bravo TV executive and talk show host Andy Cohen, along with other "retail-tainment," to create excitement in the store.
Still, there are exceptions.
Elizabeth Barton, 25, isn't looking for celebrities and glitz. The Lincoln Park, Ill. neighborhood executive recruiter likes new clothes and prefers Nordstrom over H&M, where she was snapping pictures of herself trying on sunglasses in front of a mirror on a recent afternoon.
"I assume celebrity brands aren't well made, and they aren't catered to my taste anyway," she said. "My style is quality over quantity. I'd rather have one nice pair of jeans and one nice purse than a bunch."
Discerning millennials like Barton are what Nordstrom was gunning for when it overhauled its trendy women's department. The goal was to lure younger customers in search of quality with a nod to their limited budgets. The move wasn't so much a change in strategy but a realization that it wanted to be the retailer of choice.
"We thought we had an opportunity to be more relevant to that truly trend-driven customer who wanted us to be more accessible in price, and that was a hurdle for us before in that department," said Nordstrom spokesman Johnson. The response to Savvy's new look has been positive overall, he said.
Nor will the celebrity branding trend be fading soon. It's likely that a growing number of retailers will add celebrity brands to their merchandise lineup, according to Michael Stone, CEO of Beanstalk, a celebrity licensing firm.
"(Celebrity branding) gives the retailer a real point of differentiation," he said, adding that it's a way to create "sizzle" in stores without having to develop brands from scratch.
(Source: Chicago Tribune, 04/26/13)
||St. Louis Heads List of America's Top Pro Baseball Markets
A soon-to-be released national report by The Media Audit reveals that St. Louis is the top market for regular followers of professional baseball.
According to the study, 77% of the St. Louis metro population regularly follows pro baseball on radio or TV, a figure that is 60% higher when compared to the general population. Among all U.S. adults, 48% regularly follow the sport, a figure that represents more than 71.6 million baseball fans.
Columbia-Jefferson City, Missouri ranked second, with 72.1% of the metro area's population regularly following the sport, followed by Cincinnati, Ohio (66.3%), Boston, Massachusetts (65.8%) and Milwaukee-Racine, Wisconsin (65.5%).
Pro baseball fans make excellent prospects for many consumer categories including the automotive, hospitality, alcoholic beverage and sporting goods industries, suggesting the best promotional tie-ins with local sponsors and media. For example, 16.5% of fans are planning the purchase of a new or used vehicle in the next 12 months, a figure that is 11% higher when compared to the general population.
Furthermore, pro baseball fans are 22% more likely to be planning the purchase of a new vehicle, and 25% more likely to spend in excess of $30,000 for an automobile within the next 12 months.
Also, pro baseball fans are 19% more likely to be frequent diners at a full service restaurant, 29% more likely than the general population to be a frequent beer consumer, and 35% more likely to be a frequent wine consumer.
Rounding out the top ten pro baseball markets are Detroit, Michigan (63.3% regularly follow pro baseball), followed by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (62.7%), San Francisco, California (61.7%), Cleveland, Ohio (61.1%), and Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas (60.6%).
(Source: The Media Audit, 04/25/13)
Daily Sales Tip: An Easy Way to Secure Testimonials
One of the most common comments you'll hear from clients when asking for testimonials is, "Well I'm really not much of a writer, so it's hard for me to put it into words."
The real power of testimonials comes from the fact that they're not polished...they're authentic and from the heart. A marketing professional I know quite well recently shared with me his secret about how he addresses this issue in his business: "I borrowed an idea from John Caples -- one of the great copywriters of the 20th century. When asking a client for a testimonial, he'd simply say 'Finish this sentence in 25 words or less: I really like (product/service/person) because...'
"This really works because it gets right to the point about the feelings people have for you, for what you do and for what you're selling."
Source: Colleen Francis, president and founder of Engage Selling Solutions