Coach Inc. on Tuesday reported better-than-expected second-quarter profit, as more people visited Coach stores and more of those visitors snapped up the retailer’s full-priced handbags.
Increasing sales, differentiating product assortments, retaining customers and cutting costs are the top priorities for retail executives in 2007, according to the Retail Horizons study, which was developed by the NRF Foundation and Wells Fargo Retail Finance and discussed at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference in New York.
Once upon a time, people started stealing Victoria’s Secret underwear and began selling them on eBay. Then the store’s parent company, Limited Brands, fought back with Operation Pink, marking merchandise with UV ink, and catching the culprits who stole and resold them on eBay. The operation was a success.
But there is no happily ever after for the lingerie chain or for any other retailer hit by organized retail crime, at least not in the near future.
What once used to be individual crime in unique geographical areas has now exploded onto the retail scene as a significant problem, Limited says.
The new breed of thieves is organized, with specific roles for each member, and operates on a national level.
“These groups operate more like a terrorist cell,” said John Talamo, Vice President of Limited Brands’ loss prevention division. “So if we apprehend a group and its leaders, it doesn’t affect or disrupt the operations of other groups.”
Speaking at the National Retail Federation’s annual expo in New York, Talamo said what used to be petty theft once has now become organized crime, and needs to be handled by professionals.
He said Limited has taken matters into its hands, by forming a separate team within its loss prevention division that works with the legal and legislative arms of the government to fight organized retail crime.
In addition, the NRF’s Retail Loss Prevention Intelligence Network is bringing together companies affected by retail crime by building a national database of incidents of theft at retail stores.
The NRF expects the database to help law enforcement agencies and companies to nab thieves. It also hopes to create a geographical map of the network in the future, allowing users to zoom into specific areas and check crime statistics and security measures that stores use in the area before setting up shop.
So, can Gap and Express expect retail crime to be a thing of the past soon? It looks like moderate victory now, but only time can tell for sure.
Electronics like flat-panel TVs may have helped drive increases in sales for U.S. retailers this holiday season. But price cuts slowed the pace of the sales gain, according to a report released Tuesday by consumer and retail information company NPD Group.
Retail sales of consumer electronics like televisions, MP3 players and computers totaled $8.75 billion from the week of Thanksgiving through the week ended Dec. 23, according to the NPD Group.
While that marked a 6.5 percent increase from 2005, that was less than the 10 percent increase posted in the same period between 2005 and 2004.
NPD said price cuts on flat-panel TVs slowed the pace of growth, as did the the fact that Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday this year — eliminating that final day from the reporting period.
Electronics were among the most heavily advertised items this year, with retail industry leader Wal-Mart Stores Inc. promoting lower prices. But investors are now watching to see what the lower prices meant in terms profits for retailers. They hope to learn more when retailers report December sales this week.