This holiday season, Faith Hope Consolo, chair of retail sales and leasing at Prudential Douglas Elliman, predicts that retail sales will increase by nearly four percent.
On Black Friday alone, sales increased by a record 6.6 percent, with stores opening several hours early and the country slowly slipping out of recession. “The retail rebound has been so big,” Consolo said. “I don’t think it’s going to stop.”
At a Women’s Special Interest Group event Consolo hosted on Monday, during the ICSC’s annual New York conference, panelists from Brooks Brothers, GameStop, Toys ‘R Us and CVS agreed that more products will move off the shelves than last year, and national chains will continue to expand.
“If Black Friday was any indication, we’re on for a very special holiday season,” said Kathy Self, chief of real estate at Brooks Brothers.
The company’s strategy: build relationships with customers long before the holidays, by emphasizing value and quality service.
“We’ve never been big into deep discount,” Self told a crowd of about 325 women (and a scattering of men) gathered in a ballroom at the New York Hilton. “If you do it one year, you have to do it every year.”
For discount-minded shoppers, Brooks Brothers operates a couple of outlet stores, at places like Woodbury Commons and the Jersey Gardens Mall. And when the company does hold sales, it’s for short periods of time. “We’ll offer 40 percent off for 48 hours on category killers like cashmere sweaters,” Self said.
To supplement its loyal customer base with new shoppers, the company has opened stores in China, Mexico, and South America. Once familiar with the brand, the logic goes, foreigners are more likely to stop at Brooks Brothers when they travel to the States.
And by introducing a line of children’s clothing, including an entire store devoted to the school-age set on Madison Avenue, “we not only have grandma and grandpa, we have the youngsters,” Self said.
The introduction of new products has also helped boost sales at GameStop, another popular spot for holiday shopping. The video game retailer, which has subleased a handful of storefronts once occupied by Blockbuster, began offering android tablets just in time for the rush of Christmas shoppers. “We’re trying to keep up with new technology,” said Marc Summey, GameStop’s senior vice president of real estate and development.
The company has also been adjusting to a shifting buyer profile. The average video-gamer is now 35 years old, and women are purchasing games in greater numbers than before. “The Wii Fit is now marketed to women,” Summey said.
Accordingly, the company launched a female leadership council for its employees, and has seen a rise in the number of women managing stores.
Toys R Us, too, has been embracing change, adding in-store pickup centers for online shoppers. “It caters to moms in a hurry, though we hope she stays and shops,” said David P. Picot, senior vice president of property development at Toys R Us. Storewide, common purchases this year include the LeapPad, which Summey calls “an iPad for kids.”
After operating 600 pop-up stores last December, the company has cut back on leasing temporary space. “We’re focused on mall and outlets, built-in shopping destinations,” Picot explained.
Stores are taking a new shape, too. Rather than eyeing big-box spaces as large as 60,000 s/f, Toys R Us is opening outposts as small as 30,000 s/f. And the company is giving a boost to its Babies R Us brand, selling products for infants at every major location. 250 new baby stores opened this year, Picot said, and many of them are staffed with women that new mothers can relate to.
Like Toys R Us, CVS is growing, adding 50 stores each year. “During the recession, we had an opportunity for rent reductions,” said Angela Franklin, the company’s regional director of real estate.
At its urban outposts, which have lately been placed in residential neighborhoods just off of major destinations like Times Square, CVS introduced yogurt, salads, and other food products for on-the-go shoppers.
The chain also expanded its medical component in recent years, said Franklin, who kicked off her career at CVS in the pharmacy department. Following a merger with Caremark Rx in 2007, CVS introduced “minute clinics” staffed by nurses and physicians assistants, who provide vaccinations and treatment for common illnesses.
Over the next month, however, customers are more likely to be found in the beauty or electronics aisle, picking up Christmas gifts.
“They’ll go to the pharmacy side when they get the bills in January,” Consolo joked.