Wednesday, September 18, 2013 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||ShopperTrak Anticipates Holiday Retail Sales Boost
Earlier Promotions Will Accompany This Year's Shorter Holiday Calendar
Retail sales will increase this holiday season, but retailers will have to work to earn their share, according to ShopperTrak, a leading provider of shopper analytics.
When compared to the same period last year, retail sales are forecast to rise 2.4 percent during the holiday season of November and December. However, shoppers are expected to visit fewer stores. ShopperTrak anticipates that while sales will rise, total retail store traffic will decrease slightly compared to last year.
Holiday sales and store shopper traffic historically account for about 20 percent of annual retail activity. This year's sales increase builds on the 3.0 percent increase seen in 2012 versus 2011. The anticipated retail store shopper traffic decrease of 1.4 percent is down from the 2012 holiday season, which saw a 2.5 percent traffic increase from 2011.
"Although the economy continues to recover slowly, consumers remain cautious about spending and are not ready to splurge," said ShopperTrak Founder Bill Martin. "Even though online buying increases each year, brick-and-mortar sales remain retail's largest profit opportunity. Retailers who deliver a seamless experience both in-store and at every customer touch-point have the chance to capitalize and grab their share of wallet when shoppers visit the stores."
Retailers have a reduced window of time to capture peak holiday spending as only 25 days lie between Black Friday (Nov. 29) and Christmas this year, compared to 31 days in 2012. Typically, weekends are busy times for customers to visit stores and, unlike last year, consumers have only four (not five) full weekends to shop.
In addition, Hanukkah begins the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 28), 11 days earlier than in 2012. While an early Hanukkah will not affect overall holiday sales, it will shift the time some retailers anticipate traffic increases. As a result, ShopperTrak expects promotions will begin as early as the day after Halloween -- the very start of the holiday season.
"Nobody can afford to procrastinate," said Martin. "Retailers must have their holiday marketing and operations ready to go when November begins, as consumers will be ready to take advantage of those deals."
Apparel and Electronics
According to ShopperTrak, sales and traffic in the apparel and electronics categories will mirror national trends. Retail sales in the historically popular apparel and accessories store category will increase 2.8 percent compared to 2012. Shopper traffic at apparel and accessories stores will decrease 1.0 percent.
ShopperTrak expects sales in the electronics and appliance store sector to increase 2.0 percent compared to last year, while shopper traffic will decrease by 1.2 percent.
"These trends are just another indication of how the consumer has changed," said Martin. "It is critical to remember that well over 90 percent of all retail sales in the United States will occur in brick-and-mortar stores. Keeping a close eye on their in-store shopper analytics will help retailers succeed this holiday season."
(Source: ShopperTrak, 09/17/13)
||Solar Panels Are the Next Granite Countertops for Homebuilders
Solar panels are the next granite countertops: an amenity for new homes that's becoming a standard option for buyers in U.S. markets.
At least six of the 10 largest U.S. homebuilders led by KB Home include the photovoltaic devices in new construction, according to supplier SunPower Corp. Two California towns are mandating installations, and demand for the systems that generate electricity at home will jump 56 percent nationwide this year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
"In the next six months, homebuilders in California and the expensive-energy states will be going solar as a standard, and just incorporating it into the cost of the house like any other feature," Jim Petersen, chief executive officer of PetersenDean Inc., the largest closely held U.S. roofing and solar contractor, said in an interview.
Lashing panels to roofs during construction is about 20 percent cheaper than after a house is built. Homeowners who can afford the extra $10,000 to $20,000 cost in return for free power threaten the business of traditional utilities such as Edison International of California or Kansas' Westar Energy Inc.
Power companies are losing business because they can't cut their rates in line with the tumbling prices of residential solar systems. Those cost about $4.93 a watt in the first quarter, down 16 percent from a year earlier, according to the Washington-based solar association. That was sparked by the 18 percent slump in prices for solar panels and related hardware in the same period.
A 3-kilowatt system, enough to power a typical mid-size home, costs less than $15,000 and can be rolled into a mortgage, said Tom Werner, CEO of San Jose, California-based SunPower.
"You embed it into your home mortgage, you're cash flow positive month one," he said.
That's similar to how some buyers decided to pay $5,000 or $10,000 for a kitchen countertop that would be from natural materials and would outlast a Formica-style top.
"You're going to see a transition from novelty, like granite countertops, to mainstream option," Werner said in an interview. "We're rapidly passing the equivalent of a 'countertops decision' to a 'no-brainer.' You just do it."
As more homes generate their own power, typically with the help of state or federal subsidies, they're buying less electricity from traditional utilities.
PG&E Corp., California's biggest electric utility, has said this jeopardizes the power grid because there's less revenue to maintain the infrastructure. In response, utilities are raising rates, a burden that's a slightly heavier burden for people without solar power. In California they may eventually pass on as much as $1.3 billion in annual costs to customers who don't have panels.
The price crunch has also clobbered many manufacturers, pushing some of the biggest in Germany and China to protect themselves from creditors and restructure debt over the past two years, including Solar Millennium AG and Q-Cells SE.
PetersenDean installed photovoltaic systems on about 7.5 percent of the 100,000 roofs it built last year. CEO Petersen said he expects that figure to double this year.
"We've picked up at least a dozen new subdivisions since mid-March, and all of them have incorporated it into the cost of construction," he said.
KB Home has built about 1,800 homes with rooftop solar since 2011, according to Steve Ruffner, president of the company's Southern California unit. It's currently developing 22 communities in the most populous state that include panels as a standard feature, he said.
"Our buyers told us that's the way they wanted to go," Ruffner said in an interview. "Selling solar to the consumer is the value in the process, because they can put that in their mortgage." The company delivered almost 3,300 homes in total in the six months through May and expects to surpass that in the second half of its fiscal year.
KB sells solar as an option on homes in Nevada, Texas and Colorado and plans to offer it in Arizona beginning next month.
Megan McGrath, a real estate analyst with Stamford, Connecticut-based MKM Partners LLC, said building new homes with panels is still mainly a California phenomenon.
"It's not as big of a deal elsewhere," she said. Builders in other states haven't seen significant demand for energy-efficient homes, so "it's not really an important part of your strategy."
About 494 megawatts of panels were installed atop new and existing U.S. homes in 2012, according to the solar trade group. That figure is expected to swell to 770 megawatts this year as prices continue to slide and may reach 2,175 megawatts in 2016.
SunPower has supplied components for more than 10,000 U.S. homes, including 4,000 built last year in California, the biggest solar state. As many as one in five homes built in the state this year will have solar, Werner said.
The panel maker also has provided systems to builders including DR Horton Inc., PulteGroup Inc., Standard Pacific Homes and Richmond American Homes, all of which declined to make executives available to discuss their strategies.
R. Rex Parris, the mayor of Lancaster, California, pushed through legislation in March requiring the equivalent of at least 1 kilowatt of solar power on all new homes starting next year. About 97 percent of city buildings are considered "net zero," producing as much power as they consume, he said.
The entire city, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Los Angeles, may be net-zero within three years, he said. Sebastopol, California, a town about 55 miles north of San Francisco, passed a similar measure in May that applies to new residential and commercial buildings.
"Economically, there's absolutely no reason not to do this," Parris said. "Solar's the only way to go."
(Source: Bloomberg, 09/13/13)
||He Diets, She Diets: More Weight-Loss Plans Target Men
Weight-loss companies are becoming savvier about getting men to go on a diet.
Men and women diet and lose weight differently, research has shown. Men often go for diets with a simple message -- eat this, avoid that -- and don't care about the ins and outs of nutrition science as much as women do, weight-loss experts say. While women might like the idea of dieting, men instead prefer talking about getting in shape.
Biology also plays a role: Men tend to lose weight more quickly and might find it easier than women to stick to a diet, says Jim White, a men's nutrition specialist with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a professional association.
One program that has caught on with some men recently is "The Fast Diet," a best-selling book that tells people to eat normally for five days each week, then sharply restrict intake to 500 calories a day for the other two days. In Britain, where the book launched, some people refer to this so-called 5:2 weight-loss plan as "the bloke's diet."
"I suspect that while few men would ever admit to being on a diet, they are happy to say that they fast two days a week, as that sounds altogether more spiritual and more manly," says author Michael Mosley, a physician and medical journalist.
Men "like being able to eat without thinking about it," says Colette Heimowitz, vice president of nutrition and education at Atkins Nutritionals Inc. So a hard-and-fast rule like "eat for five days, fast for two" is easy for men to follow and has wide appeal, she says.
Ms. Heimowitz says the Atkins diet, which aims to limit intake of carbohydrates, has a similar appeal for men, who make up 40% of the company's customers. "With Atkins, we tell them that they don't need to count calories, and it's easy to eat out," she says.
Nutrisystem, which delivers packaged meals to customers at home, offers separate gender-based menus. Meal plans for men feature more calories and high-protein food like hamburgers and pizza, whereas offerings to women include grilled chicken dishes and fudge graham bars. Men "don't want to go to a meeting, don't want to count calories or have counseling pushed at them," says Chief Executive Dawn Zier. "The ability to remain anonymous on a program and still have success is important to them."
Mr. White, of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says that because men tend to have greater muscle mass than women they also have a higher basal metabolic rate, which means they burn more calories at rest.
And research has suggested that men have an easier time resisting food cravings than women. A 2009 study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that men's and women's brains reacted differently when the subjects were tempted by favorite foods. Gene-Jack Wang, a researcher at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Upton, N.Y., says brain scans showed less activity in men than women in parts of the brain associated with decision-making and emotions.
"When those areas show activity, it means that you're still associating food with emotion and struggling to suppress cravings or make a decision about eating it," Dr. Wang says. While it's unclear what's behind the different responses, he suggested it may have to do with higher estrogen levels in women's brains.
Katy Stonitsch has been dieting for about a year, and her husband, Suneeth Samuel, for about 20 months. So far, she has dropped 15 pounds from a high of 190 pounds, while Mr. Samuel is down more than 100 pounds from his starting weight of 290 pounds. "He's disciplined, I'm not," Ms. Stonitsch says. "I cheat way more than he does."
The Chicago couple, both 28 years old, eat fewer calories each day as the week progresses, with Monday having the most calories and Saturday the least. Breakfast typically consists of egg whites or cereal, and lunch is a sandwich with lean meat. For dinner, they heat up a Lean Cuisine frozen meal. Sundays are cheat days and supposedly the only time the couple goes out to eat. But Ms. Stonitsch says she gives in to temptation more frequently.
"I always tried to get him to cheat with me. I could never say no to anything," says Ms. Stonitsch.
For Mr. Samuel, dieting is just "part of my normal routine, like getting up and brushing my teeth," he says.
Men are less food-obsessed than women, says Karen Miller-Kovach, chief scientific officer for Weight Watchers Inc. and author of the book "She Loses, He Loses: The Truth About Men, Women, and Weight Loss." And when it comes to dieting, "men usually get a wake-up call, declare fat the enemy and then do whatever to get rid of the problem."
Weight Watchers, which doesn't offer different menus for men and women, has had greater success attracting men to its online dieting program than its group meetings. Men now comprise 12% of online customers, up from 10% historically. The figure peaked at 18% when the company ran advertising targeting men, a spokeswoman says. A separate Web portal for men includes simpler instructions than for women, and offers such features as a cheat sheet and grilling recipes. Celebrities targeting men for the company's Lose Like a Man campaign include former basketball player Charles Barkley and comedian Lenny Clarke.
"For men, it's about having an idol in society and saying, 'hey, they signed off on it, it's OK to diet,' " says Mr. White, the nutrition specialist. "Ads geared toward women are more emotional and show the everyday mom, who's caring and understanding, saying 'I'm there too, I understand the struggles of being busy.' "
Competition also enters into men's style of dieting. Zoë Sakoutis, chief executive of BluePrint, which offers juice cleanses, says women make up the bulk of the company's customers. But some men's groups have also followed the cleanse program. "They were doing it in a more competitive atmosphere and had turned it into a game."
The Male Appeal
Diet programs take different approaches to draw men.
Nutrisystem: The company, which delivers meals to your home, has a separate menu for men, featuring higher calorie counts and 'man food' like burgers and pizza, says CEO Dawn Zier.
Another pitch: Anonymity. Men don't need to "talk about losing weight or be the only guy in the room," says Ms. Zier.
Weight Watchers: Men want simple solutions, whereas women tend to seek more information on nutrition and recipes when dieting, the company says. Its online portal for men focuses on "quick and easy" food options and cheat sheets. For its Lose Like a Man campaign, pitches feature male celebrities and videos on humor site Funny or Die.
Atkins: No need to count calories, is part of Atkins' pitch to men emphasizing easy-to-follow rules of the carb-restricting diet plan. Also, "satiety is really important to men, so we stress that they can feel full with more protein and fat," says Colette Heimowitz, Atkins vice president of nutrition and education.
The 5:2 Diet: The plan, featured in bestseller "The Fast Diet," is known as "the bloke's diet" in its native Britain. Fasting two days a week "sounds altogether more spiritual and manly" than saying you're on a diet, says author Michael Mosley.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal, 09/06/13)
Daily Sales Tip: Overheard at Yesterday's RAIN Summit in Orlando
Hundreds of attendees heard ideas, tips, and tools to sell more digital, especially streaming, at the RAIN Summit in Orlando. The Summit is held as a pre-conference to the NAB/RAB Radio Show that starts today (www.radioshowweb.com).
Here are a few samples of what we heard that you, too, may be able to use:
-- "Alternative revenue means alternative advertisers. Don't keep going back to the same people. Use digital to go after advertisers who are NOT using your radio advertising." ~ Daniel Anstandig, Listener Driven Radio
-- "To sell branded online radio stations, digital streaming with visual display, you have to make sure your client is committed to branding. It takes a long time to build brand and clients must be committed for a long period and use other media to drive traffic." ~ Dan Weiner, Pandora
-- Westwood One told of why they created Players Playlists for football fans to listen to players' music mixes. "It's common for TV coverage to show players wearing earbuds as they get off the bus. It's part of the pre-game ritual. So what is their playlist? People want to engage with it. And Westwood One is selling ads around the feature. What have you observed about your listeners' interests and how could you turn that into a product that will attract advertisers?" ~ Matt Cutair, Westwood One
-- "The best way to sell digital is to start. Once you sell a digital campaign it awakens you to the opportunity. Salespeople often say after their first sale: 'That wasn't so hard. I should have been asking other clients to buy digital.'" ~ Kurt Gentry, Radiate Media
Source: John Potter, SVP/Professional Development, RAB