It’s true; it’s that time of yr. The kiddies have been back 2 school at least for a wk or 2. The temperature is changing as are the leaves. CATS, BATS, RATS, etc are becoming all the rage. Both college and pro football fill the air with visions of the 1st D-1 College Football Playoffs and SB 49. THXGVNG’s tail feathers & Blk Fri’s & Cyber Mon’s fantastic sales all loom. OK, enough of our playful perch atop our question. With “Back 2 Shopping” all but done, let’s look back on the season b-4 we look forward to the HOLIDAY SEASON!

We begin our Xmas analysis with B2S b/c conventional wisdom is that it gives us a good “peephole” into Holiday Season sales b/c it’s the 2nd biggest retail time of the year and b/c it is but 2 mos from that $600 B$ 700 B XMA$ COLOSSU$. SO BE IT! By most accounts the B2S (includes Back2 College) has been “Surprising” (The Week), “a bright spot” (CNBC), “Healthy” (Pit-Post-Gaz), a “Lift” (Investor Biz Daily), etc. Look, it’s NOT uniform and it’s NOT 100%, but it ain’t bad! Late Aug & early Sept reports put B2S at a 4% to 5% increase yr over yr. Since we’re in Motown, (The Motor City) we are also inclined to tip our hats to the auto industry and nod affirmatively to its “kick butt” AUG (5½% over last Aug) with an annual selling rate of $ 17½ M (Snavely & Priddle, DFP). We think that we would ALL take the 4% to 5% B2S growth and bank it for the holidays, NO? WADDAUTHINK? Since H-ween is tween B2S & the Holidays, we should consider it! H-Ween sales last yr were just under $7B and should rise b/t $ ½ & $1 ½B this yr. Let’s see that’s 1/9th ± of B2S with B2S being 1/9th ± of the Holidays. ANYQUESTIONS?

One of the BIG BELLS of the Holiday Season, (H-ween not withstanding), is its 1st ad. The early ring may get the best sound. Whenever that #1 bell rings, Holiday competitors had better have their bells, whistles, commercials, etc and cash registers ready to ring. For Whom the Bell Tolls! Well, guess what, the 1st Xmas bell has ALREADY rung with Kmart’s “This is NOT a Xmas Comm’l”, ad promoting “layaway” purchasing. It was seen and heard b-4 Sept’s 1st wk was in the books (utube). As said “C’mon, its SUMMER till 9/22” No matter K-Mart’s Xmas denial, one can see a Xmas tree, elves, etc” in the ad which concludes Merry b-day! PLEASE! (See EARLY PROMOS next pg)

No matter what Holiday Season is in front of us, ONLY the most outward going, most optimistic and most convinced forecasters of the “power of prayer” would dare to aggressively predict a blockbuster Holiday Season. The Great Recession (0709) reminded as of how quickly “tornado clouds” can capture shoppers, the season and turn retail into a tale of distress. Having said that any “we-tale of woe” surely does NOT describe THIS season’s expectations. From the start though let’s get the data right about the size of Xmas retail. While we hear stories of the Holiday Season (Nov & Dec) being 40% for some retailers we find that % ridiculous except for the those selling Santa Claus suits and Xmas trees, There is NO general retail category (Census Bureau) that even hits 30%. Last year N&D accounted for almost 22½% of the gen’l category known as “Clothing & Accessories” and almost 21% of the gen’l categories of Sporting Goods, Hobbies, Books & Music Stores AND Gen’l Mdsers (Dept & Discount Stores). Specific “cats” such as Jewelry Stores & Hbby AND Toy & Game Stores revenued as much as 25% and 28%, respectively in Nov & Dec. (For the curious, the gen’l category of “Mtr Veh & Prts Dealers” did 16.2% of their yrly sales in N&D while New Car Dealers did 16.6% of their yearly sales. These were both fine performances last year.) Now to 8 POSSIBLE DIFF TYPES OF PROMOS THIS HOLIDAY SEASON!


CUSTOMER SERVICE: WE strongly believe that the internet has provided some wonderful opportunities for connections b/t sellers & buyers and indeed, b/t and among people, themselves. In our view it has also issued a new HANDBOOK of rudeness, discourtesy and for abrupt & minimal customer service. Sellers of all kinds and types of products & services have lost the art of human contact and empathy, failing to realize that inevitably personal contact, prompt, consistent and helpful customer service easily wins as many hearts, heads and hands (holding pocketbooks and wallets) of consumers as do pricepromos and distribution deals. ( 3 recent Forbes’ articles assert the value of customer service. We loved Joshua Steimle’s [9/1/14] rephrasing of Michael Porter that “continuous, positive differentiation leads to sustainable competitive advantage”. Dan Shawbel writing about David Meerman Scott [9/3/14] says that the web should “be used to solve problems.” Understanding buyer’s needs is paramount, create content for them NOT for products. Finally, SOCIAL NETWORKS should be used for 2- way communications. Andrian Swinscoe (9/5/14) says that proactive contact all but guarantees loyalty with long term biz value.) WOW! In addition, Chad Brooks (Biz News Daily) quotes V Kumar (GA STATE) that “customer experience matters more when customers are in a strong economy”.

EARLY PROMOS: Last year we were blessed with an early Holiday promo by K-mart as it spoke of gas savings, layaway and Xmas, using a “Xmas Creep” who was a large gingerbread man on Sept 9th. This yr despite Kmart’s denial of an early Holiday ad, its 30 sec “layaway” Xmas themed Holiday ad speaks volumes, yet again. We expect many retailers to follow suit as we see store shelves start their debate among B2S, H-ween & Xmas space.

FREE SHIPPING was a monstrous promo item last season (& the last few Holiday Seasons). While it has been captured in different forms, with diff restrictions, we promise it will AGAIN be a significant promo for online retailers. Consumers treasure “free shipping”.

MOBILE COMMERCE is growing by “leaps and bounds” as we see an increasing trend this B2S Season as more and more shoppers use their devices to shop and yes to buy. Phones and laptops are now part of the online comparison shopping and buying experiences. We expect special bargains for those who mobile, this Holiday Season, as they “dig those deals”

MULTI CHANNEL: “Pick up”, exchanging and returning will continue to grow this year. While convenience is always important, we would offer that during the Holiday Season it becomes more important. The days of bricks vs clicks are virtually done since ALL retailers± do both. Today, the advantage goes to retailers who make it easy and less costly to “pick up”, exchange and return products to their bricks’ operations.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: Y’all remember the Target debacle from last Holiday Season? Suffice it to say that any retailer that has the willingness and ability to safeguard our info will have a very, very promotable feature especially around the Holiday Season. ANTI-HACKINGNESS will resonate with shoppers! ANYQUESTIONS?

SOCIAL MEDIA: We expect that Xmas Time 2014 will be remembered as a “break out” time for Social Media Marketing as more and more marketers use the Social Media to promote specials and to be in “constant contact” with their customers. The greatest success is likely to be had by those retailers who “man/woman” the Social Media platform constantly with well informed and caring employees. (They must be meaningful & kind problem solvers). If the Social Media are used properly, these retailers will establish a real relationship with their customers and it may well be the best that they have ever had.

TANK TRAFFIC: The prices of gasoline continue to plummet. Every 10¢ per gal decline in gas will save $9.33 B± for consumers. Based on the expected gas price decline b/t LD & Xmas, Americans will save about $28 B in their gas spending. A family of 4 with 2 drivers will have saved about $28.80. It sounds to us like a good strong medium sized holiday gift or perhaps 2 lesser gifts. WADDAUTHINK?

VIDEO COMMUNICATION: As Amando Roggio says in Practical Ecommerce, video is the “most powerful medium” for online communications. There is little question that beyond price searches and recommendation data that actually seeing products increases sales. We only need to cite the impact of visual impressions such as those from infomercials and TSN. Xmas 2014 should be blessed with increased VIDEO CONTENT for products and enhanced video product sales as the internet continues to grow in retail importance.

About bernacmd

For over 24 years, University of Detroit Mercy Marketing Professor Michael Bernacchi, Ph.D., J.D, has produced "uNDER tHE mIKE-rOSCOPE", a newsletter discussing current "marketing and advertising¹s bends, trends & ends." A well-know fixture in Detroit and national media, UDM's marketing guru has made several appearances on CNN's "Talk Back Live," the Voice of America worldwide radio network (VOA), ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and on the pages of Sports Illustrated, Time, TV Guide, the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, to name a few. At University of Detroit Mercy, he has taught courses in Marketing Management, Consumer Behavior, Marketing Communications, Research and Corporate Social Responsibility and Sports and Entertainment Marketing. Michael Bernacchi can be reached at 313-993-1116 or Please appropriately attribute the following for their work on uNDER tHE mIKE-rOSCOPE: Yen Ju Lee Robert Rouse Vidhyasagar Natarajan Eric Baumgardner & Ian Young
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