Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Netflix tops customer satisfaction survey

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NETFLIX-OUTAGE/Online retail may be outperforming brick-and-mortar rivals amid the U.S. recession, but that’s no reason to get complacent.

In a wake-up call to the industry, a new survey shows that customer satisfaction with online retailers declined 3 percent from last year.

The slipping satisfaction level uncovered in ForeSee Results’ Top 100 Online Retail Satisfaction Index is a “remarkable trend,” according to its author.

The report — which surveyed 22,000 respondents to measure customer satisfaction at the top 100 online retailers by sales volume — found that the top performers were outweighed by more bottom performers, with 55 online retailers seeing their scores drop from last year.
 
“Customer satisfaction, when measured scientifically, is not just a number or a beauty contest. It is a direct precursor of customer behaviors that have a measurable and quantifiable ability to impact sales and profitability,” warned author Larry Freed.
    
A 1 point increase in customer satisfaction is equivalent to nearly 9 percent growth in online sales, the report found, while a satisfied shopper is 71 percent more likely to buy than a dissatisfied one. 
    
First, the good news: Netflix.com is still No 1, followed by Amazon.com, with the top two companies maintaining their spots for five years in a row.  Avon.com came in third.

Check Out Line: Back to buying

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Check out some strong sales.

Sure, sales are still down at most chains.  Still, anything that’s down less than expected is a good sign in this economy, right?

KOHLS/NORDSTROMSales at Wal-Mart‘s U.S. stores open at least a year jumped 5 percent, topping analysts’ average expectation for a 2.9 percent rise.  And in a sign that improving sales are leading to better profitability, retailers including J.C. Penney, TJX and Kohl’s raised their profit expectations for their just-completed first quarter.

Check Out Line: December sales slump

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Check Out the drop in sales.

It was no surprise that sales were weak in December, though some retailers stood out Thursday for their worse-than-expected performance.

WALMART/Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, said sales at U.S. stores open at least a year rose just 1.7 percent, while analysts were expecting a 2.8 percent increase.  Wal-Mart and other chains such as Macy’s cut guidance for the fourth quarter ending later this month.
 
Shares of Wal-Mart fell more than 9 percent on Thursday morning, dragging the Dow Jones industrial average into negative territory as well.

Sorting through Black Friday data

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Black Friday has come and gone but what on earth happened at the cash registers over the Thanksgiving weekend? The data is trickling in, and so are the early critiques. (See our previous blogs: Treat Black Friday reports cautiously and Black Friday data spurs more questions than answers)

Here is a break down of the latest reports and what data is still to come:

National Retail Federation:

According its 2008 Black Friday Weekend survey, conducted by BIGresearch and published on Sunday, the NRF said more than 172 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend (which includes Thursday, Friday, Saturday and projections for Sunday), up from 147 million shoppers last year. 

Wal-Mart shows its strength on Black Friday

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Wal-Mart flexed its retail muscle on Black Friday to the delight of deal-seeking shoppers who spoke with our reporter Nicole Maestri in Columbia, Maryland.

Early bird buyers with shopping carts stuffed with toys, electronics and clothes stood 10 deep in checkout lines and the parking lot was packed with cars at 7:30 in the morning. In Valley Stream, Long Island, the crush turned tragic when a temp worker was killed by the crowd surging through a Wal-Mart’s doors.

Check Out Line: This week in retail wasn’t pretty

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Check out a stream of extremely sobering news from – and for – retailers.

This week, quarterly reports came in from Macy’s, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, JC PenneyCharlotte Russe, and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Check Out Line: Tough Month for Retail

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Check out disappointing September retail sales

Many U.S. retailers posted worse-than-expected sales at stores open at least a year on Wednesday, and some cut their profit outlooks and said things won’t improve anytime soon as consumers remain shaken by the financial crisis, job worries and the housing slump.

retail12.jpgDiscounter Wal-Mart Stores and warehouse clubs managed the best sales performances in September as shoppers sought bargains on necessities. Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, stood by its third quarter earnings forecast.

Check Out Line: It’s a bad idea to raise the turkey you sell

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turkey.jpgCheck out why Heinz didn’t suffer like Hormel did in the past quarter.

H.J. Heinz came in with a quarterly profit that beat Wall Street expectations, helped by price increases and new product sales, while Jennie-O turkey seller Hormel Foods saw its earnings dip.

Food companies have found it tough going as commodity costs shoot up, but Hormel was particularly hard hit. The reason? It raises the turkeys that it eventually sells — meaning spiking corn feed costs hurt its results. 

Check Out LIne: Mixed profit outlooks

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nordstrom.jpgCheck out retailer’s different views on future profits.
 
Kohl’s, the mid-priced department store, says it expects third quarter earnings to be better than expected, while upscale Nordstrom cut its forecast range.
 
That’s not to say that Nordstrom’s consumers are flocking to Kohl’s as the U.S. economy suffers. Kohl’s profit fell in the second quarter. But cutting inventory was enough for it raise its profit estimate for the full year. Deutsche Bank retail analyst William Dreher also said the company will be able to set itself apart with fresh merchandise because it cleaned out its inventory.
 
Nordstrom, meanwhile, cut its full-year profit outlook. But while its customers are spending less, the retail chain says they are not trading down.
 
And if they were, they certainly aren’t trading down to J.C. Penney, which saw a 36 percent drop in profit and forecast third quarter earnings below analysts’ estimates. Sales also fell 2.5 percent.
 
Also in the basket: 
 
H&M defies retail gloom as July sales top forecast
 
Swatch upbeat on H2 as Olympics boosts sales
 
Back-to-School discounts are deeper, more creative (N.Y.Times)

 (Photo: Reuters)

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