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24 Aug
Brick-and-mortar stores are set to see a wave of shoppers stocking up on back-to-school essentials. A poll by FatWallet (June 2015) found that 91% of US parents plan to shop in-store for school items, compared to 37% of those who chose online shopping

So what is it that people choosing to buy in shops rather than online? A study by Deloitte (via eMarketer) has found that US parents planned to purchase the majority of back-to-school items in-store rather than online.
 
It seems that technology and wearables are most likely to be bought online, particularly by students, eMarketer found. A mixture of both shopping in stores and digitally seems to be a trend for items like clothes and accessories; consumers may like to shop around for the best deals and offers before purchasing.
 
Although the back-to-school purchasing started at the beginning of summer, shops should expect to see heavy traffic in the coming weeks as the start of September draws near. eMarketer found that 54% of parents claimed they would complete shopping related to school less than one month before the start of the new school year.
Technology reigns over notepads and pens
A recent study by Twitter has shown that it’s not just your standard pens, pads and notebooks that today’s students will be filling their backpacks with. Technologies that were once a luxury such as tablets, laptops and headphones are now commonplace in the classroom.

Twitter’s findings showed that many of their younger users are saving some of their summer job wages to buy their own tech products with 66% of teens and 58% of 18-25 year olds covering r the costs themselves. Headphones came out as the most wanted item for teens (40%), followed by wearable technology (32%), laptops (15%) and smartphones (15%).

Be aware of the power of recommendations from other Twitter users too, as highlighted by the study: 47% of millennials said tweets from those who have already purchased a product are an important factor when it comes to deciding what brand to go for.

The appearance of a product also plays an important part of the decision making process, with 44% of teens citing product images as key in swaying their decision. Cost, of course is an important factor but less than half of those asked said that offers and deals mattered when making their decisions.
Spending & Decision Power of Mums
Twitter’s research and a 2014 Deloitte study highlight how Mums hold the power when it comes to fulfilling teen and young peoples’’ back-to-school wishlists, with laptops being the most wanted item for both age groups. 69% of mums say they check Twitter at least once a day, partly looking out for information on the best deals to help them select the best retailer to purchase from.

At Competitor Monitor, we are also interested in how big-name brands change their prices over time, all fighting for consumers’ attention and money.

If you are a retailer, this is where we can come in and help you to monitor prices and outsmart the market.
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18 Aug
In one of our recent blog posts, we explored the findings of trends and searches based on the topic of ‘summer’ from Google. The results were fascinating and insightful, highlighting what goes on in the minds of Brit as we endure the warmer months.
BBQ season: A wash-out
They say that if you don’t like the weather in Britain, wait a minute. And it would seem that in those rare minutes of sunshine, us Brits rush out to have a BBQ with our nearest and dearest.

Unfortunately though, this year, those bursts of sunshine have been few and far between, which has affected retail spending. Despite shops cutting prices on BBQ essentials to try and get consumers to spend more, it seems the wet weather has truly dampened our spirits and we aren’t even trying to get our grill on..

According to data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), UK retail spending increased by only 2.2% in July, compared to the same period last year, which saw a 2.9% rise in July. This slow growth rate also extends between May and July: food sales were only up 0.1% during this time, compared with non-food sales at 3.7%.

Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of food industry body IGD, commented on this to City AM newspaper:
 
“Food and drink sales are particularly influenced by the weather at this time of year. July began with a heatwave and strong food sales but the rest of the month was colder and wetter than average and July’s overall performance disappointed after a run of more encouraging months.”
Not all rain clouds and dampened spirits
On the other side, figures from Nielsen show a slightly more positive picture, with the soft drinks category seeing a +3.9% rise in year-on-year sales, with beers, wines & spirits seeing the strongest category growth (+3.1%) aside from general merchandise (+4.6%).

Meanwhile, fruit and vegetables returned to positive sales growth (+0.2%), although packaged grocery and dairy experienced the biggest declines, -4.2% and -3.8% respectively. Nielsen also released stats showing that our of the ‘Big Four’ supermarkets, Morrisons sales increased 0.1% year while Asda sales were down 3.2% and the Co-Operative returned to year-on-year growth for the first time in four periods.

However we look at it, these statistics are a reminder of just how dependent retailer and category performance, along with traditional summer events, are on the weather, in the short term.
Stay on top of trends, whatever the weather
Nothing can predict or outsmart Mother Nature, but at Competitor Monitor we CAN help you to monitor prices and outsmart the market. Our aim is to help the world’s leading companies to stay competitive, whatever the trend - take a tour to find out more.
 
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11 Aug
The sixth series of Great British Bake Off (GBBO) has once again proved to be a recipe for success, with the first episode of the series pulling in 9.3million viewers, that’s 43% of all TV watchers.  

Up by almost 2 million viewers compared to last year, these figures highlight just how popular the show is in the UK, fuelling the growing desire for all things food and baking.
Satisfying our hunger
At Competitor Monitor, we wondered what impact this cultural phenomenon is having on the demand and cost of culinary items.

Annual foodie dates in the calendar, such as Pancake Day, Easter and Christmas, have always seen a rise in the sale of baking utensils, but stats from shopping insight consultancy, IRI, show this has surged during every season of the show as it continues to grow in popularity.


[Source: This Is Money]
 
Although Tesco saw a 30% rise in demand for cake decorations during GBBO last year and has forecasted that this will be as high as 40% this season.

Interestingly, items such as flour, sugar and cooking chocolate saw a slight dip in price AFTER the series ended, according to supermarket data. So you may want to to keep that in mind and wait until after the finale to bake to take advantage of the cheaper deals!
A nation of bakers
According to IRI, sales of baking products have risen by a dramatic 62% since 2007, but this has also seen the price of baking products also increase, mostly driven by the higher costs of dried fruit and wheat.

Despite rising costs, the trend for baking hasn’t slowed down, as people enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and producing homemade meals and treats for their families and friends.

Either way, as Tesco homebaking buyer Darren Atherton commented on the subject, this can only be a positive thing:
 
“The Great British Bake Off is the biggest thing to have happened to homebaking since cake mixes first appeared nearly half a century ago and has inspired a whole new generation of younger bakers.”

But with so many people baking, what about shop-bought cakes? Retail analyst Mintel found that sales of manufactured cakes have dropped in favour of homemade, though if you make it yourself, it’s practically a meal!
Monitor price, stay competitive
Along with enjoying soggy bottoms and cheeky innuendos from the tent, we at Competitor Monitor will be watching the prices of popular baking products to see how prices fluctuate throughout season 6.

In the meantime, let Competitor Monitor help YOU to improve price competitiveness and profits. We monitor thousands of sites across the globe and over 20 million unique products across various industries, from FMCG to lifestyle - get in touch with us today.
 
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04 Aug
It can be hard to imagine a time before Google. How did we find out otherwise unknown information before the global search engine came into fruition and organised the world’s information, making it universally accessible?

Whatever the time of year or occasion, millions flock to the site, but with summer being so unpredictable in the UK, at Competitor Monitor it got us thinking about the mindset of Brits and what they are asking and thinking about throughout the warmer months.

Thanks to Google releasing insights into their search data, we have found some fascinating answers.
Fly Away, Let’s Fly, Fly Away
It may come as no surprise that as we reach summer, people start to think about where to go on holiday and what to take. With swimming being one of the key activities if going abroad to a hot country, many want to know how many calories it burns, while parents are keen to know when their baby is old enough to go in the water.
 
Looking Good On The Beach
Just as everything in the fashion world, trends never stand still and beachwear is no different. Interestingly, micro bikinis have entered straight at the search top spot, followed by the tankini (+1,500% YOY);  high-neck bikini top (+1,100% YOY), colour block bikini (+760% YOY) and plus-size bikinis (+640% YOY).
 
 
Sunglasses have also seen a shift in styles year over year, with the searches for Polarised sunglasses , up by 45%. Aviators are proving to be a timeless choice with searches, up by 26%. It seems as well that shoppers are making the sensible choice as prescription sunglasses have seen an increase of 17% this year.
 
 
The pressure to have a golden glow when the weather calls for you to show more skin is on the minds of many in the summer months. With increasing caution around the risks of skin cancer, it seems that faking it is the winning route Fake tanning saw a 32% increase of searches (including ‘best fake tan’), while searches for spray tanning and ‘fake bakes’ were up by 8% and 3% respectively.  
Trends Over Time
As Brits we’re known for our surge of enthusiasm the moment the sun comes out as it means BBQ time and swimming! Have a look below from Google’s data, showing how trends for both have changed over time, in correlation with the hottest temperatures. For instance, searches for ‘BBQ’ peaked on 17th July, the hottest day in 2014.
 
 
A Lesson for Retailers
So, what can all of these insights tell us? Statistics highlighting trends reflect constantly changing behaviours of the ever-evolving consumer. For brands,  marketers and retailers, being reactive to such trends is absolutely key in terms of maximising opportunities or ensuring your prices are competitive in the market..

That’s where Competitor Monitor comes in. We monitor thousands of sites across the globe and over 20 million unique products across various industries, from lifestyle to FMCG. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help you to improve price competitiveness and profits.
 
[Photos sourced from The Drum.]
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04 Aug
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22 Jul
Last week we reported on Amazon’s Prime Day, which was met with mixed opinions across Twitter, with many Tweeters using the hashtag #AmazonPrimeDay to show off the most obscure sale items they could find.
 
Some may argue it was more like a ‘garage sale’ than the Black Friday challenger Amazon promised to its Prime Customers, with discounted items including chef hats, multi pack knuckle dusters, amongst other random offerings. Not that there weren’t some fantastic offers available, it just seemed that these were selling out faster than the excited buyers were expecting.
 
Perhaps not what consumers were expecting then, especially considering the online retailer’s claims that items in the sale had been carefully selected; Abode has reported that half of the overall social sentiment about Prime Day expressed disappointment.
Bigger Than Black Friday?
Despite the negativity directed to the flash sale, Amazon Prime Day gained the e-commerce giant a 40% boost in sales across Europe, plus a further 80% increase in the US. According to the company, the event broke sales records and exceeded Black Friday 2014 sales, which had been the biggest to date.
 
Here at Competitor Monitor, we’ve had a look at the breakdown of statistics released from Amazon in terms of its ‘success’:
 
  • Worldwide order growth increased by 266% year over year
  • Customers ordered 34.4 million items across eligible countries, breaking all Black Friday records with 398 items ordered per second
  • Order growth was 18% higher worldwide than Black Friday 2014
  • Unit sales were up by 300%
  • US daily sales were up 93% year over year
  • Amazon’s EU daily sales were up by 53% year over year
Popular Products
We managed to find out just how many units of some of the best sellers were sold:
  • 56,000 Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy sets
  • 51,000 Bose headphones
  • 47,000 TVs (an increase of 1,300% year over year)
  • 28,000 Rubbermaid container sets
  • 24,000 pressure cookers
  • 14,000 iRobot Roomba 595 vacuum robots
  • 12,000 Fifty Shades of Grey Blu-Rays
  • 10,000 Meguiar’s X2020 Supreme Shine microfiber towels
So, was Prime Day A Success?
It is worth remembering that the brand’s sales event was only available to subscribers who pay £79 a year for the Amazon Prime service.
 
However, the initial goal of Prime Day was to convert shoppers to subscription customers, rather than just simply selling more merchandise. Revealing that more new members tried Amazon Prime than on any other day in Amazon’s history, we see this as an indication of a promotion day working pretty well for Amazon!
 
In fact, the e-commerce giant has confirmed that it will host a Prime Day again: “Going into this, we weren’t sure whether Prime Day would be a one-time thing or if it would become an annual event. After yesterday’s results, we’ll definitely be doing this again,” said Greg Greeley, VP at Amazon Prime in a statement.
 
At Competitor Monitor, we think it will be interesting to see how the contagious nature of sales events like Amazon’s Prime Day will impact on the e-commerce space. While this might be welcomed by consumers looking for cheaper deals, for manufacturers, this could mean being forced to offer unrealistic prices in order to compete.
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16 Jul
From its humble beginnings as the original online bookstore to international tech giant, the company is claiming that Prime Day will be its biggest sales day in its history, even overtaking Black Friday. That’s both a milestone and a bold statement as the global ecommerce business celebrates its 20th birthday.
 
Here’s how the stats compare: While Amazon said it sold more that 5.5 million items (64 per second) on Black Friday, it expects Prime Day, taking place from midnight on Wednesday 15th July for 24 hours, to be bigger as a result of offering thousands more deals.
 
The catch is that Prime Day is only open to Amazon Prime subscribers in the UK, US, Canada, Spain, Germany, Italy, and France. A priority delivery service launched in 2007, subscribers pay £79 a year for unlimited next-day delivery and have access to the company’s own services, including its TV streaming facility, Prime Instant Video.
Slashing Prices To Benefit Customers
Amazon will be running six Deals of the Day, running throughout the time period, subject to availability, as well as Lightning Deals, running every 10 minutes.
 
The retailer already runs this type of promotion every day but says there will be thousands on Prime Day.
 
These will run for a fixed period of time, with a finite number of products available.
 
Categorised products on offer:
  • Amazon merchandise
  • Laptops and PCs
  • Gaming
  • Smartwatches/wearables
  • Cameras
  • TVs/monitors
  • Books/DVDs
  • Headphones/HiFi
Alongside Prime Day festivities, Amazon will also include multiple sweepstakes and giveaways; for instance, users have the chance to win prizes while listening to any song on Prime Music during the event.
 
Prime Day makes an interesting offering as a benefit of being a Prime member, with further features expected to be added to this service over time, according to Christopher North, Amazon’s UK managing director.
Long Lasting Amazon Prime Loyalty?
What about for those who only want to get a cheap deal? Amazon lets new members try the service for 30 days, for free, meaning you can get immediate access to Prime Day discounts. If they decide against the service, they can easily cancel their subscription during the trial for no extra cost. This could affect the level of new subscribers Amazon is expecting to get on board, but loyalty could override that issue.
 
Although Amazon has dominated the ecommerce industry since its public launch in 2007, analysts have expressed their concern that it will struggle to improve its earnings outlook for the remainder of the year. However, considering that shoppers can immerse themselves within Amazon’s offerings, from listening to music to food shopping, Prime could potentially attract and forge stronger ties with advertisers in order to survive.
 
Whatever the outcome, at Competitor Monitor we are interested to see the results following the launch of Prime Day and whether it is as successful as the company hopes, and if the promotional event significantly expands its base of Prime subscribers.
 
Look out for our follow-up feature, focusing on the outcome of the promotion and our own price comparison analysis on some of the key products.
 
At Competitor Monitor, every day we monitor millions of products across the world for our clients, improving price competitiveness and profits. Get in touch today to find out how we can help YOU to outsmart the market.
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03 Apr
In the run up to Easter, the price wars between supermarkets have already began - to the point where shops are running out. Selling from as little as 99p, this means they are cheaper on a pound-to-weight ratio than normal chocolate bars, and retailers have been quick to jump in and capitalise on this.
 
A time when chocoholics can spoil themselves and indulge their sweet tooth, the competition to offer the cheapest price for Easter eggs is so strong that discounts have encouraged an unexpected level demand. The result? A potential nationwide shortage. Asda have stopped selling eggs to online shoppers due to a shortage of stock, while Tesco ran out of several brands of chocolate eggs, including Cadbury’s, Nestlé and Lindt.
How Prices Compare
We at Competitor Monitor have had a closer look at some of the costs and the effects this is having on the availability of the confectionery.
 
The average price for Easter eggs across the top four supermarkets have been reduced by an average of 9.7%, from £4.40 in 2014 to £3.97 this year, according to The Grocer:
  • On average, Morrisons cut the price of branded eggs by 7.3%, forcing the other supermarkets to take its lead.
  • Prices rose at Tesco and Sainsbury’s by 2.6% and 3.3.% on average respectively
  • Costs decreased by 0.4% for Asda.
Further statistics and price changes include:
  • Cadbury’s, the major driver of growth across Easter last year, are 4.4% cheaper in supermarket chains.
  • Kitkat and Smarties (both Nestlé) are down by 4.2%.
  • Own-brand eggs are 6% cheaper on average.
  • The Co-Operative has launched its own line of Easter eggs, available at £5 each.
  • Thorntons is selling Easter hampers for half price online.
We found it interesting at Competitor Monitor that even food brands you wouldn’t think would give Easter much thought are jumping on the bandwagon. Marmite and Pot Noodle eggs have hit the shelves at the major supermarkets and luxury retailer Fortnum and Mason even created a dark chocolate scotch egg with venison inside, a nod to their invention of the iconic snack. 
Knock-on Effect For Other Industries
We predict that prices won’t stay low for long. Cocoa prices have continued to rise over the last few years due to demand for confectionery increasing in emerging markets. Not only that, but the supermarket price wars also resulted in the price of milk to be pushed below the cost of bottled water.
 
As a result this has angered dairy farmers who blame supermarkets for pressuring them to reduce their income. As we know very well at Competitor Monitor when keeping track of prices across various industries; when one is in favour of customer’s wallets, another one has to suffer.
 
Wondering how price monitoring can help YOU to outsmart the market? We monitor thousands of sites across the globe and over 20 million unique products. Get in touch with Competitor Monitor today!
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11 Feb
Valentine’s Day has become an occasion not just about love and romance, but a lucrative opportunity for retailers to take advantage of. People are expected to spend; shops are expected to offer deals and promote here, there and everywhere.
 
Although only 38% of customers said they were actually planning on getting involved in Valentine’s Day celebrations, those who do celebrate the occasion go all out, with a third of those involved intending to spend more by trading up to pricier products, according to shopper marketing agency, Savvy.
Polarised Spending Behaviours
At Competitor Monitor, we found it interesting that this annual celebration isn’t just about splashing cash; customers are spending at polarised ends of the scale, choosing either the top or bottom end, but remember – it’s the thought that counts! For budget retailers this is excellent news.
 
As well as increasing their offering of products, providing more choice for the customer when competing against other brands and products, they are also focusing more on execution of in-store events, with the aim of enticing shoppers to buy and spend more.
 
Those who don’t take the day too seriously, or can’t (or won’t) splash the cash, are turning to the budget supermarkets where they can pick up essentially the same products at a fraction of the price.
 
On the other end of the scale, high-end retailers don’t need to worry. Many customers are seeking luxury goods and intend to dig deep to impress their other half. Sales of premium chocolate at Selfridges have been up by 30%, while sales of Pierre Herme Macarons have seen a 463% increase year on year.
 
In fact, MasterCard’s annual trend index has shown that spending on premium products has increased 13% year on year.
Battle of the Brands
A dozen roses has caused a supermarket price war to break out, which sees Interflora offering a bunch ranging from a pricey £139.99 to £44.99 compared to £3 from Lidl - an offer even undercutting its rival Aldi, charging £5 for its cheapest bunch. Meanwhile Tesco, Asda and Morrisons have slashed the price of their cheapest red roses to £5 for 12, while Sainsbury’s is offering a dozen Fairtrade ones for £7.
 
While this offers shoppers a fantastic price range, from the lowest to the more extortionate, this price war isn’t good new for the independent florists, who can’t compete within the market. According to the British Florist Association, events like Valentine’s Day and the focus on flowers could mean that 8,000 florists across the country could disappear as a result of competition.
Impact of Day on Sales
We think it’s worth noting that this year Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday. What affect could this have on spending? Mastercard UK and Ireland president, Mark Barnett has said, “This will mean shoppers have more time on their hands to cook at home - that will undoubtedly benefit supermarkets.
 
“We know from our research that shoppers’ biggest expectation of their supermarket will be the availability of Valentine’s Day meal deals, mentioned by 39%.”
 
Perhaps consumers are intending to stay in and dine at home this year, as opposed to spending large amounts on a posh meal out with their other half. In terms of what’s available for those planning to stay in, Morrisons are offering a deal of one main, two sides, one dessert and either a bottle of wine or box of chocolates for £15 and M&S have included a box of chocolates to their regular ‘Dine in for Two’ but increased the price from £10 to £20.
A Lucrative Occasion
Whichever way shoppers decide to go when it comes to spending for Valentine’s Day this year, Competitor Monitor predicts that the surge of last minute, in-store purchases will be made as shoppers jump on the novelty bandwagon.
 
Did you know we monitor millions of products across the world for our clients across various industries? Get your free trial to find out how we can help improve price competitiveness and profits.
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12 Dec
 
We’re always excited to discover new trends in retailer discounting. Usually there are similarities year-on-year, but an increasing number of websites we monitor have had unexpected discounting in 2014.  
 
As the festive season approaches, it seems that everywhere you look, food and decorations are on offer. Not only are these products discounted, most have a considerable amount of money knocked off, or a promotion such as ‘buy one, get one free’ running.  
 
But has full price ever existed, or are these offers a way of trapping the consumer into thinking they’ve got themselves a bargain?
 
Here at Competitor Monitor, we’ve tracked festive products such as Christmas trees, gift-wrap, cards, food and decorations over time, to offer insight into pricing changes during the run up to Christmas. Here are our findings:
 
  • Artificial trees are currently reduced by 50%, some even less than half price. By launching price history reports for several monitored websites, we can see that artificial trees were only sold at full price during August this year. The best time to buy is during November and December – pricing trends have shown that 50% offers only exist during these months.
  • We’ve tracked prices of Christmas cards on several monitored sites. Our data shows that there are currently discounts of up to 50% available, will full prices offered up until October.
  •  Christmas-specific gift wraps currently have a 30-50% saving depending on where you buy – most only stayed at full price until September.
  • Foods such as chocolate biscuits and Christmas puddings have had their prices slashed by 50% – research shows these items were sold at full price in August.
 
From the research above, it appears that the most cost-effective time to prepare for Christmas is later rather than sooner.
 
However, based on past indicators, prices will increase around 19th December, when people have less time to bargain hunt and are less conscious of how much they spend, giving retailers an opportunity to increase their prices. 
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08 Dec

 

At Competitor Monitor we always find some interesting insight in our data. This week we decided to dig into this data in a slightly different way, combining our existing information with some desk research. We thought we would share some results about the Holiday season.

As we all know, the holidays are a time of significant spending for parents and therefore a great opportunity for retailers. But what about the hidden costs in addition to the obvious?

Here are some findings from our research:

·      Food and gifts take up a large portion of a parent’s budget, with up to 80% spent on these alone in the run up to Christmas.

·    Despite Black Friday discounting and Cyber Monday deals, we have found that many of our monitored retailers have increased their pricing over the past few weeks on key items, toys being an obvious but significant one.

·    Tied in with the above, there is a lack of discounting across the board at the moment with very few retailers offering reductions in their lines.

·   Although fuel prices have lowered recently, due to the lower price of oil, our bespoke price monitoring for one customer has shown that train ticket prices remain high and there are no low-cost deals for travel until the New Year.

·     Visits to attractions such as a trip to see Santa Claus, are often unbudgeted expenses which are becoming more expensive year-on-year with the average attraction now costing £60 for a family of four, before factoring in food. Most families can only visit these festive attractions at weekends when prices are usually higher than during the week. An adult fee is even more expensive than a child’s – usually turning a fun family day trip into a pricey affair.

·     According to a survey conducted by a large supermarket chain, on average, parents will spend £312 per child this Christmas – and that’s only on gifts. From our own research, comparing prices of identical products on several of our monitored retail websites could lead to a saving of up to 60%.

 

We will be monitoring the products above to see how they change in price and availability into January. Feel free to reach out of you have any comments on this article.

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02 Dec

 

Although still a relatively new concept in the UK, Black Friday was anticipated to be the biggest and most successful shopping day in the British retail calendar this year.

According to reports, Boxing Day will be outperformed by Black Friday, as discounts and product quality have been higher due to a poor autumn, where retail sales slumped due to mild weather. Supermarket giant Tesco already expects that its Boxing Day sale will be beaten due to huge 70% discounts that were available in-store and online on Black Friday.

Fortunately, after a disappointing autumn, there has been a pre-Christmas boost to sales figures in the UK, where an estimated £810 million was spent by shoppers on Black Friday - £300 million more than projected.

In the USA however, shoppers spent 11% less than during the same period in 2013 and sales dropped from $57.4 to $50.9 billion. Earlier discounts during October, savvier sales shoppers and the money-worries of many consumers are possible contributions to this decline.

Traditionally, Boxing Day is one of the most successful sales in the UK. Yet as more and more retailers offer more permanent and frequent discounts, shoppers are no longer waiting post-Christmas to grab a bargain, potentially killing off the Boxing Day sale.

With that said, it becomes much harder for retailers to gain insight into competitor activity. Promotions are more sporadic and not all retailers offer their most competitive prices at the same time. By monitoring retailers and their competitors, Competitor Monitor can help companies understand more about pricing and promotional trends, whether during a sales period or on a day-to-day basis, offering full visibility and the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

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21 Oct
High-end retailers are famous for being intimidating and supercilious. Whether it's a cultural artifact or an actual reality, the perception exists that high-end stores tend to treat customers poorly, especially if they are not immediately wealthy. Conventional marketing wisdom would say that this is a terribly negative strategy, and that the better customer service a retailer provides, the happier the customer will be, and the more likely they are to purchase from you again. Surprisingly, a new study that will be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Consumer Research by Darren Dahl has found that when it comes to the highest of the high-end retailers, the opposite is true.
 
Yes, you read that correctly - as long as a brand is perceived to be a luxury high-end brand, customers actually respond more positively to being treated poorly by the sales staff. At least, it's 'positive' when it comes to the bottom line of the retailer's books.  According to the paper, "Rejection by a brand increases consumers' desire to affiliate with it, and they do so by increasing their willingness to purchase, pay for and wear or display items from the rejecting brand." This is incredibly counterintuitive, but it seems to only apply to high-end brands. If the brand or retailer is considered to be cheap or budget, then the effect of poor service is completely different.
 
Additionally, the effect doesn't seem to apply equally to everyone. Dahl was quoted as saying, “Our study shows you’ve got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work." In other words, the more you idealise a certain brand, the more likely you are to respond favourably to being rejected by it, which is completely counterintuitive to traditional marketing wisdom.  

In the no-holds-barred world of retail, where a tiny competitive advantage can be the difference between success and failure, it will be interesting to see how various retailers attempt to capitalise on the results of this study. Even more interesting will be possible applications in the world of e-commerce. When it's impossible to assess a customer's potential net worth and spending habits  simply by looking at them as they walk through the front door of a shop, we may find that the 'big data' on our shopping habits being compiled by various retailers is sold and consolidated to form a sort of digital buying power scale. But will customers allow it? Only time will tell.
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13 Oct

When Online Goes Offline

Posted by Toni
The e-commerce revolution has sparked a number of major changes in the way customers interact with businesses. Massive changes in the way they browse, in the way they shop, and in the way they expect their entire transaction experience to go. One of the unintended side effects of these changes has been the shuttering of brick and mortar stores in favour of investing more resources in the digital side of the sales and fulfillment process. As we discussed in a recent post, brick and mortar stores are closing left and right as pressures on margins, overhead and bottom lines become even greater than they have been in the past. Recently, as in the aftermath of most sets of chaotic circumstances, a new pattern has begun to emerge. Instead of offline businesses moving online, a reverse trend has finally begun to establish itself, as traditionally online only companies begin to see advantages of having physical locations.

Arguably, Apple began to pave the way for this when they first took their successful online store offline, and opened the very first Apple Store location in the brick and mortar world. It was a runaway hit, and proved that there was possibility for online stores to make successful forays into the material world. Admittedly, Apple has some of the most fanatical customers of any brand in the world, and those customers tend to have relatively high incomes (or at least the willingness to spend their disposable income at said Apple Store), however the mold was broken and the floodgates may now open. Amazon is apparently gearing up for a pilot test of an offline brand to be known as 'Pantry', in an effort to compete with so-called 'big-box' stores like Walmart and Costco in the United States, and if they can also make it work, then the model has definitely been proven.

North America isn't the only region where online giants are eagerly eyeing the offline sector, however. In China, the popular competitor to Amazon.com known as Alibaba, which has been making headlines all around the world with rumours of a Western IPO and a renewed North American sales focus, is also seriously expanding its ability to conquer offline markets. One of the largest Chinese department store companies, Intime Retail, has recently accepted an investment from Alibaba of over £415 million, giving them a significant advantage over their rivals. As often as Alibaba and Amazon are spoken of as direct rivals, it's interesting to see how much more quickly Alibaba appears to move on its projects - Intime had already inked a deal with Alibaba to use their mobile payment affiliate system, Alipay Wallet, something that Amazon has only spoken of deploying as of yet. It will be interesting to see in the coming years how the two go head to head, as a clash of the e-commerce titans seems more and more inevitable.
 
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30 Sep
It's an almost unavoidable fact that the e-commerce world moves at the speed of light - thanks to fiberoptic global communications, this is literally true. But even figuratively, the e-commerce world is a constantly shifting landscape of innovation as retailers large and small move to counter the advantages gained by others, while increasing their own competitive ability and marketing position. Competitor tracking is one of the most essential elements of the online retail world, and allows even the smallest businesses to stay abreast of the latest retail tactics.

The latest concept that's taking the retail world by storm is presented as a solution to the competition between online and offline markets: omnichannel retailing. Channels, as most retailers are aware, is simply another way of describing ways of interacting with customers, whether it be via email, websites, mobile browsing, or brick and mortar store foot traffic. In a world that was struggling to adapt to the sudden rise of e-commerce, channels were becoming increasingly fragmented, with the left hand not knowing what the right was doing, so to speak, more often than not, as websites and stores offered different deals, different prices, and in some cases even different products. Needless to say, this was a growing hassle for both retailers and customers alike.

Omnichannel retail solves all those discrepancies by stressing the essential nature of a consistent experience for customers, no matter how they choose to interact with a business. Unlike many buzzwords, this one appears to have gained real traction in the business community, as evidenced by the recent "First Annual Symposium on Omni Retailing", held in New York City at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

While the focus of the symposium was on fashion retail and how it can be enhanced by using omnichannel retail strategies, it makes perfect sense that fashion retailers would be at the forefront of a distributed but consistent retail experience, as many shoppers who browse fashion online are still unwilling to purchase without actually trying the final product. Lending some serious weight to the event was the speaker list, which included representatives from Microsoft, Birchbox, and The Boston Consulting Group, as well as a keynote address by Peter Nordstrom, from the retailer of the same name, a real coup for the event organizers as he rarely speaks at any sort of event.

In a world dominated by multiple channels, the true competitive advantage will be held by those who can deliver consistently excellent experiences to customers, no matter how they choose to interact. Getting in on the ground floor can ensure your business stays ahead of the curve, instead of behind the eight ball.
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