mfioretti: shopping*

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  1. f there is any indication of the cultural import and effect of the “millennials” – a term I dislike for reasons I will explain later – look no further than America’s malls. The Baby Boomer hubris and NIMBYism that sent malls into further and further orbits from city centers has come home to roost and it promises to change the face of retail in a big way.

    First, some statistics. I point to Columbus, Ohio because it’s where I’m from and I have plenty of data points. First, Sears is pulling out of two of Columbus’ once-mighty malls, Eastland and Westland. These “directional malls,” built between 1964 and 1969, were once the jewels of the city. Far enough from downtown commerce they let suburbanites stock up at any of their many anchor stores – J.C.Penney, Sears, K-Mart – and then eat at a fast casual spot like Red Lobster and, later, Outback. This self-contained world further became the locus for youth culture in the suburbs – a place to hang out that wasn’t outside – and, ultimately, became a symbol of a failed way of life.

    These mall suburbs are now magnets for the poor. Two forces are at work here. First, young people are moving back into the city center resulting in a rise in housing prices and the closure of many rent-stabilized buildings in the once-moribund Downtown area. Further, subsidized housing has ground in districts around – you guessed it – the old malls.

    From the Dispatch:

    Seven of the 16 ZIP codes within Columbus’ pre-1950 boundaries have lost subsidized households since 1994, according to housing authority data. Meanwhile, 33 of the remaining 35 ZIP codes in Franklin County have gained households using rent vouchers. That includes large gains in the three ZIP codes near Westland Mall (43228), the old Northland Mall site (43229) and Eastland Mall (43232).

    And don’t think fast food is safe. The old slop is rapidly aging, as Bob Dylan once wrote. To wit: the CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings – a chain that started in Columbus, Ohio as Buffalo Wings & Weck (BW3) and, in my gastronomic opinion, has since gone far downhill – said that lack of interest in casual dining joints like BWW and Applebee’s is slowly forcing a further contraction.

    “Casual-dining restaurants face a uniquely challenging market today,” current CEO Sally Smith wrote in a letter to shareholders. “Millennial consumers are more attracted than their elders to cooking at home, ordering delivery from restaurants and eating quickly, in fast-casual or quick-serve restaurants. Mall traffic has slowed. And, surprisingly, television viewership of sporting events (important for us, especially) is down.”

    In short, the rate of store closures is expected to double in 2017, a worrying trend for those who want cheap, bad food in a sterile, marble-clad environment prominently featuring plastic trees.

    Smith blames millennials. I blame Smith. As has been pointed out many times – most recently in Generation of Sociopaths that the demographics, the policies, and the preferences of the Baby Boomers rode a wave of absolute financial success from the nadir of World War II into the golden 1960s. The habits laid down in those years – the desire for cheap, fast food, the screen as babysitter, the penchant to trade the nameless (but often racist) anxiety of the city for a suburban lawn – defined the rise of fast commerce and will define its fall.

    In short, technology has made us not want to go to the mall by bringing everything – from food to clothing to toilet paper – to our homes. But what comes next? Our species will never survive if it sits on the couch all day eating take-out from Seamless, streaming Netflix, and ordering from Amazon. Small town Main Streets have already been gutted by malls and there is little hope that Old Man Jenkins’ Five and Dime is opening back up. So what comes next?
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  2. While there has been a surge in traffic to retailers' Web sites from smartphones, a proportionately big boom in sales on these gadgets have yet to appear. In other words, for all the time we spend swiping and tapping on our phones, we still aren’t especially willing to make purchases on them.

    Instead, shoppers are largely using their phones as something of a personal, pocket-sized sales associate that helps them browse and research while they are in a store. That has prompted retailers to adapt their mobile strategies to help them do something counterintuitive: Boost in-store sales.

    “We’re not overly focused on conversion on mobile, we really see it as a tool to drive traffic in our stores,” said Krista Berry, the chief digital officer of department store chain Kohl’s. Conversion is an industry term for when browsers become buyers.

    When customers are in Kohl’s stores and on the retailer’s Wifi network, customers spend more time on the app than when they’re not in the store, company officials said.

    These behaviors have led Kohl’s to develop a new “in-store mode” for its app, in which users who walk into a Kohl’s store will be asked if they want to use a special version that is tailored for wandering the store. Kohl’s declined to say how the in-store mode will be different from its regular app experience, but said it would be available in September.

    Big-box behemoth Target is also catering to shoppers who are using their phone to guide them through stores with a relaunched app that has a stronger emphasis on a tool that helps them building their weekly shopping list and an interactive map of each store in its fleet.

    It’s easy to see why the company has moved in this direction: Since it installed free WiFi in its stores a few years ago, Target has found that the most-visited site, by far, is the retailer’s own Web site.

    This enthusiastic embrace of in-store phone use might have seemed unthinkable in corners of the retail industry only a few years ago, when many brick-and-mortar chains were panicking about showrooming, the industry term for when shoppers would go to a store to check out merchandise, only to ultimately buy it online for a better price. But that fear has largely dissipated as study after study has shown showrooming is not a huge threat. In fact, several studies have found that the opposite behavior -- browsing online before buying in a physical store -- is more common.
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  3. In 1954, American consumer behaviour academic, Gregory Stone identified four different types of consumers.

    Consisting of 150 in-depth interviews, Stone’s research found there was an “economic” shopper, who was after bargains, a “personalising” shopper, who liked interaction with staff, and an “apathetic” shopper, who was disillusioned and unengaged in shopping activity.

    Then there was the “ethical” grocery shopper – consumers who demonstrated a moral obligation to patronise local merchants, purchase locally produced products and felt the need to “shop where they ought to”.

    This ethical shopper was willing to sacrifice lower prices, convenience and range, in order to “help the little guys out”.

    The idea of the ethical shopper has since taken hold in mainstream retailing.

    But my new research has suggested that socially responsible consumption may be a thing of the past.

    The research suggests that the majority of grocery shoppers today rarely consider social responsibility when purchasing grocery products or when selecting supermarkets.

    When given the choice of a two litres of supermarket homebrand priced at $2 compared to two litres of Maleny Dairy Farms milk at $4.29, it seems most shoppers will purchase the cheaper product.

    This is of course what our major supermarkets are banking on.

    But maybe it is time to look at the supermarket price wars a different way.

    As consumers, we demand lower prices, discounts, specials, convenient trading times, fast service, car parking, and air conditioned comfort.

    But with that comes consequences.

    Flickr/Sean Macentee

    Lower prices, fewer choices

    Yes, it can mean lower food prices and some increased competition between the two (or three) main players.

    But it also possibly leads to fewer product choices for consumers. Yet shoppers appear to be happy to accept these conditions.

    In a retailing context, ethical behaviour requires the shopper to behave in accordance with carefully thought out rules of moral philosophy – rules relating to right and wrong.

    In other words, we know it is “right” to pay for our milk when we reach the registers.

    Social responsibility, in the same context, focuses on the effects of shoppers’ actions.

    This is simply, “I’ll buy the more expensive milk because I am supporting my local community, local farmers, local economy”.

    There has been much interest in ethical and socially responsible consumption in recent years.

    Studies that have considered ethical consumption have examined fair trading, organic products, free-range products, farmers markets and “freedom” foods.

    The supermarkets have responded accordingly, with both claiming to support Australian farmers and local producers. (Remember the commercials of the Woolworths beef-buyer standing in the stock yards with an Akubra?)
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  4. Consumer spending during America's Thanksgiving weekend dropped compared to last year, but the decline can be attributed to an improving economy and changing shopping habits, a survey found Sunday.

    According to the National Retail Federation's Thanksgiving weekend spending survey, 55.1 percent of holiday shoppers were expected to visit stores or go online over Thanksgiving weekend, down from 58.7 percent last year.

    "A strengthening economy that changes consumers' reliance on deep discounts, a highly competitive environment, early promotions and the ability to shop 24/7 online all contributed to the shift witnessed this weekend," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.
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  5. Retail spending over the Thanksgiving weekend fell 11%, according to the main industry trade group, a sign that the annual four-day shopping bonanza may be losing some of its punch.

    The decline, the second annual drop in a row, came in part because retailers started offering deals in the days and even weeks before, giving shoppers ample opportunities to snag discounts without having to endure the lines and crowds that typify Black Friday.

    Target Corp. , for instance, offered its first round of so-called Black Friday deals on Nov. 10, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc. kicked off its holiday promotions at the start of the month.

    Total spending from Thursday through Sunday sank 11% from a year earlier to $50.9 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, which surveyed 4,600 consumers on Friday and Saturday.

    The weak results contrast with improvements elsewhere in the economy, such as decreasing joblessness, a rebounding housing market and two quarters of strong economic growth, and they suggest that even with an economy on the mend many consumers remain thrifty five years after the recession. Consumers have become much more dutiful about researching their purchases on the Web to find the best price and have also become more disciplined, limiting their impulse buys.
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  6. Have retailers’ earlier and earlier deals each holiday season made Black Friday, the Super Bowl of shopping, moot?

    Not quite. Some 87 million Americans still hit stores on Friday, according to a National Retail Federation survey released on Sunday. But by ramping up holiday sales events more intensely than ever, and as early as the first week of November, retailers took a big bite of what has long been the biggest shopping weekend of the year.

    Total spending for the four-day weekend that started on Thanksgiving is expected to reach $50.9 billion, down 11.3% from last year’s estimated $57.4 billion, according to NRF projections.
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  7. People have a mental model of shopping that is based on experiences from brick-and-mortar stores. We intuitively understand how this process works: all available products are displayed around the store and the prices are clearly marked. Many stores offer deals via coupons, membership cards, or to special classes of people such as students or AARP members. Typically, everyone is aware of these discounts and has an equal opportunity to use them.

    Many people assume this same mental model of shopping applies just as well to e-commerce websites. However, as we are discovering, this is not the case.

    In 2010, shoppers realized that Amazon was charging different users different prices for the same DVD, a practice known as price discrimination or price differentiation. In 2012, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Staples was charging users different prices based on their geographic location. The paper also reported that travel retailer Orbitz was showing more expensive hotels to users browsing from Mac computers, a practice known as price steering.

    By comparing the search results shown to these automated controls and to the real users, we identified several cases of personalization. We saw price steering from Sears, with the order of search results varying from user to user. We saw price discrimination from Home Depot, Sears, Cheaptickets, Orbitz, Priceline, Expedia, and Travelocity, with product prices varying from user to user.
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  8. La produzione di oggetti nuovi comporta l'emissione di gas inquinanti per l'ambiente (Carbon Footprint). Scegliere l'usato invece del nuovo è una scelta responsabile e giusta!
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  9. Il progetto presentato dal sindaco di San Giovanni in Persiceto prevede un'area da edificare pari a tre volte il centro storico del paese, 100 negozi, un parcheggio e una dozzina di palazzi da 8-9 piani. Il primo cittadino: "E' un processo partecipato, decideranno gli abitanti". Gli attivisti: "Balle, è già tutto deciso da Regione e Provincia"
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  10. Sono crollate del 12 per cento in un anno le vendite di abbigliamento primaverili. Aprile è stato un mese nero e mentre il cielo continua a fare i capricci, il presidente di Federmoda Milano, Renato Borghi spiega che ormai "non si recupererà nulla. La primavera ormai è saltata. Quanto all'estate, non farà in tempo ad arrivare il primo caldo che sarà già ora di saldi". Borghi allunga lo sguardo e vede una stagione autunno-inverno "decisiva per la sopravvivenza di molti negozi milanesi, anche di qualità, plurimarche, centrali o semicentrali: se a settembre non si vedrà un cambiamento, molti rischiano di chiudere"
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