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Industry News - November 18th 2011



Nordstrom: Majority of Future Sales Growth Will Be Online

Nordstrom reported a same-store sales increase of 7.9% over the same period the year prior in the fiscal third quarter of 2011, boosted by its digital channels. In a call discussing results with financial analysts, the retailer said that it will continue to invest in delivering a positive customer experience through online and mobile technology, stating that the majority of its sales growth over the next 10 years will be online.
"This marked the eighth straight quarter of positive same-store sales with our online increase significantly outperforming other businesses," says Blake W. Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom. "We are now in a juncture where we can build upon our position of strength in our stores by adding better capabilities and making more investments in e-commerce and technology to enhance the customer experience."
In Q3, Nordstrom reported a 20% increase in direct sales over the same period the previous year. This increase was in part driven by the introduction of free shipping and returns on its website early in the month of September, which received positive initial results from customers.
"Our customers' response to the launch of free shipping and free returns online was encouraging, resulting in a meaningful increase in Nordstrom Direct sales," says Michael Koppel, CEO of Nordstrom.
Running with the momentum from the sales boost that free shipping and returns resulted in, Nordstrom said it will continue to invest in online initiatives. Seeing online as the future of its business, the retailer plans to focus on improving the multi-channel customer experience.
"We launched free shipping and free returns […] because we have big ambitions for the growth of our online business," says James F. Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom Direct. "We believe that the majority of the growth of our categories over the next 10 years will be online as opposed to in-store. And so we feel we need to be investing in the customer experience and be more competitive and be more relevant to customers online."
Blake Nordstrom continued: "Our hope is to become more responsive to how our customers want to shop with us, whether it's free shipping and free returns online, mobile POS devices in our stores, the upcoming rollout of our Nordstrom app, online search or improvements to our online and mobile websites.
"We believe our ability to offer a compelling shopping experience in all channels is what the customer values, and we're optimistic about our prospects to achieve sustainable and profitable growth over the long run."

JCPenney Offers QR Holiday Gift Tags

As part of its holiday campaign, JCPenney is giving shoppers a personalized QR code gift tag to attach to gifts purchased in stores in place of traditional hand-written tags.
Starting on Black Friday, JCPenney will gift each shopper one free Santa Tag with their purchase. Customers can record voice messages up to one minute long on the "Santa Tags." Gift recipients can then scan the code with any QR code reader application on their smartphones to listen to the message.
Other digital holiday initiatives the retailer is rolling out this holiday season include an online and Foursquare promotion with the Salvation Army. On Thanksgiving Day, every person who adopts a Salvation Army Angel at JCPenney's website generates a $50 donation, up to $400,000, and every person who uses Foursquare to check in at a JCPenney store on Black Friday triggers a $25 donation, up to $100,000. The retailer is also supporting the Angel Giving Tree program with a mobile feature and an iPad app.

Williams-Sonoma Launches Mobile E-Gift Card Purchasing

Williams-Sonoma is the first omni-channel retailer to enable consumers to purchase and send electronic gift cards with their smartphones. Working with CashStar, the retailer is adding the ability to purchase and send e-gift cards via all five of its brands' mobile websites.
"Our customers are increasingly making purchases through their smartphones, so it is important that we give them a high quality, easy-to-use and seamless mobile gifting experience," says Pat Connolly, CMO of Williams-Sonoma. "We are excited to be the first CashStar retailer to take advantage of this terrific mobile functionality and will be rolling this out across all five of our brands: Willams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen and west elm."
Using their smartphones, customers can access any of the Williams-Sonoma brands' mobile sites and select the eGift Card tab. From there they can choose a gift card design, include a personal message and select delivery timing. The e-gift card is then sent to the recipient's e-mail address or can be sent to the purchaser's e-mail to print out and present as a gift.


OfficeMax Closes 20 Stores, Downsizes Existing Units

OfficeMax announced it will close 20 stores by the end of 2011 in addition to downsizing existing stores and curtailing expansion as a means to cut costs following weak sales, according to published reports. The retailer has already closed some outlets in the U.S. and plans to continue with a 15-to-20-store reduction per year over the next few years.
In addition to reducing the number and size of its stores, OfficeMax has begun to reduce its number of customer fulfillment centers and call centers. The company has also decided against expanding into new markets for the time being.
OfficeMax reported a 2.1% decrease in same-store sales in the third quarter of 2011, contributing to a 1.8% decrease in comp-store sales overall for 2011.


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