Strong holiday seasonal sales capped a positive year for participants in Levin Management’s Post-Holiday Retail Sentiment Survey.
The retail real estate services firm annually in polls store managers within its 95-property, 13.0 million-square-foot shopping center portfolio in January; the findings also indicate that retailers are ramping up staffing and the use of technology in their marketing mixes in anticipation of continued momentum in 2015.
Some 63.6 percent of Levin survey respondents reported that their 2014 holiday sales were the same or higher than in 2013.
An impressive percentage (60.0 percent) of respondents also reported the same or higher traffic to their stores this year compared to the 2013 holiday season.
“Our survey is conducted at the grassroots level and involves a regional mix of local, regional and national retailers, while many larger, national studies focus on ‘big picture’ corporate earnings or only major retail organizations,” noted Levin Management’s Matthew K. Harding, president.
“That differentiates our study, which sometimes counters what others report – like in the case of holiday traffic. This different approach gives a picture of what merchants are seeing at the ground level, in realtime.”
According to Levin, 62.0 percent of respondents that hired seasonal staff intend to retain some of those positions in 2015. Last year, only 40.5 percent said that they would transition seasonal workers into permanent positions.
And while the percentage is down year-over-year, nearly one third (31.5 percent) of survey respondents anticipate their companies will open new stores in 2015. “This is really good news, especially in light of January announcements of store closings and layoffs by Macy’s, JC Penny and other large retailers,” Harding said.
For the holidays, 74.2 percent of respondents incorporated technology such as mobile apps, social media, email and text message marketing into the mix. 44.9 percent of respondents indicated they will add or enhance marketing efforts involving technology in the coming year.
“Technology innovations are entrenched in how the retail industry does business, and our survey pool reflects this,” Harding said.
“Our respondents are seeing direct benefits, especially in social media, mobile apps and email. It is encouraging to hear how these new tools are making a difference.”
Over half of Levin survey respondents (51.7 percent) reported 2014 sales levels above or the same as 2013, a slight uptick from the 2013 post-holiday survey, when just under half reported the same or higher sales year over year.
Levin’s retailers feel good about what 2015 will bring — 67.0 percent are optimistic about 2015’s potential.
According to Harding, retailers have reason to be positive. “Overall indicators for the retail industry point to further positive momentum,” he said.
“Gas prices are down. Unemployment is down. And consumer confidence and spending are rising. We expect continued steady growth in the near term, and our tenants appear to mirror this sentiment.”