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01 Sep
 As UK consumers continue to assess the impact of the June 2016 Brexit decision on the cost of daily essentials such as food and clothing, global retail pricing intelligence provider Competitor Monitor, believe that supermarkets and traditional clothing retailers will face significant challenges to win the pricing war against discount retailers as they battle to dominate and increase their share of the back to school market this year.

Back to School Retail


Retail spend on back to school items in the UK has experienced steady sales growth over the past three years from £1.41bn in 2013, to £1.43bn in 2014 and £1.45bn in 2015. but analysts at FBIC and Competitor Monitor believe this growth could see a dramatic decrease driven by new discount retail players, increased pressure on parents by schools to invest in technology and the impact of the underperforming pound on the clothing retail sector.

2015 Research by Verdict found that women made up 58.7% of school uniform shoppers (especially in September) with an average spend between £31 and £41. Most parents purchased school uniforms bi-annually, predominantly in the August during the summer and February during the half term. August also delivered the most uniform purchases of parents with children at 44.8 % compared to 27.7% in July and 39% in September months. Even though, the month of July experienced the least number of uniform purchases, it achieved the highest online spend in 2015 with 34.4% of all uniform sales that month being made online compared to 29.3% in August which achieved the most uniform sales.

With the value of the pound hitting a 30 year low in Q2 2016, experts are adamant that UK high street clothing retailers may not be able to swerve the inevitable increase in costs as they continue to focus on a largely domestic market that remains heavily reliant on offshore based manufacturers and suppliers. Although this may have some truth, Competitor Monitor believe that the value of the pound is only one of many problems facing the non-food retail market, and the back to school market specifically.


Purchase influencers

As price and value remain front of mind for average UK parent, success for high street, supermarket and discount retailers will require diligent price monitoring of key competitors, markets and products to analyse and predict trends, react to price changes while developing proactive pricing strategies to remain competitive in their retail verticals and markets. Considering supermarket titan Asda, recently committed to a key strategy change, prioritising sales volume over profit and discount retailers including Aldi and Lidl continuing to experience double digit sales growth, it is not unreasonable to assume that traditional high street retailers face a real uphill struggle to compete for the back to school retail spend. Right?



The relatively short lived negative impact of the Brexit decision on consumer retail spend in the UK has offered some comfort to the retail sector as a whole, and more specifically to non-food retail. Although UK consumers demonstrated their appetite to spend, the Brexit decision has resulted in an even more value driven retail consumer. Although price will always remain is a key purchasing criteria  for most consumers in the back to school market, other technical factors such as product quality, adaptability, durability, longevity and aftercare becoming key criteria that directly influence purchasing decisions as well as product price.    



Often overlooked and under analysed, product reviews and feedback is the another key element of the purchase influencer dynamic. Research on the effect of online consumer reviews on consumer purchasing intention found that quality online reviews positively affected consumer purchase intention, higher review numbers positively influenced purchase intention and “low-involvement consumers are affected by the quantity rather than the quality of reviews, but high-involvement consumers are affected by review quantity mainly when the review quality is high.”




Although subjective, Competitor Monitor believe that branding also plays a key part in influencing retail purchaser decisions. Most supermarkets offer their own clothing brands that are competitively priced, as part of their nonfood retail offering. Recognised brands such as George at ASDA, F&F at Tesco and Tu at Sainsburys arguably offer retail consumers products that capitalise on existing brand loyalty. “They also need to be an easily justified purchase, not a bank-breaking decision. Something customers can see, want and afford at the same time.” says Senior Retail and Fashion Analyst, Katie Smith.

Katie smith also adds, “The wow-factor really lands when you compare it to the UK mass market where 2% of products are priced £4-6 and 4% between £8 and £10. In fact, the general UK mass market has only 9.6% of its offering beneath £10 while its 55% at Tu, 58% at F&F and 72% at George.”


Common Denominator


The Future

Undoubtedly, some retailers will fare better than others in the battle for the back to school retail spend but the rise of discount retailers entering this space might see supermarkets pressed on price and high street retailers heavily reliant on the fashion conscious consumer whose spending decisions are driven by brands and trends.  


See Price Monitor, Product Monitor, Review Monitor and Brand Monitor in action here.

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20 Jun
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20 Jun
Pets at Home have enjoyed an increase in retail sales and profit over the past year, with the retailer's boss describing the pet market as being "resilient" in comparison to retail in general.

Retail figures show that during the first 53 weeks of the year to 31st March, statutory pre-tax profits rose 3.7% to £92.1m, and total sales were £793m, having increased by 6.7%.

Like-for-likes experienced a 2.1% rise, increasing by 10% within the services division, which encompasses grooming and vet services.

Furthermore, the pet chain retailer has also been trialling a convenience store, Whiskers 'n Paws, and a dog-only store called Barkers.

Chief executive Ian Kellett, who began working with Pets at Home in March after replacing Nick Wood, said it was “another year of good progress... The pet market has proved over time to be more resilient than general retail, so while consumer confidence may be more fragile, we believe our drive to become more specialist and most loved by customers will deliver further progress.”

Pets at Home said that their margins will be affected by the national living wage and "weaker" sterling, but predicts that the continued growth of their services business will counteract this. The retailer also reported that trading to date in its first quarter is as they expected.

As Pets at Home's success story demonstrates, competition within the retail sector remains fierce.

Only through rigorous competitor monitoring and in-depth retail analysis can you learn what you need to do to get ahead, and stay there.

Competitor Monitor can scan the market for you, using industry analytics to keep you up-to-date on competitor pricing and industry pricing trends as a whole.

Getting an edge on the competition will help to cement your position in your marketplace, leave the competition behind and increase your profits.

Get in touch with us today to find out more and start your free trial.

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17 Jun
The EU Referendum is fast approaching; Competitor Monitor looks closely at how the result could affect the British consumer.
The upcoming referendum over whether the United Kingdom leaves the EU or remains has generated a huge amount of passionate argument from both sides.
The official campaigns for each group have been hard at work getting their opinions across through TV, leafleting and in print media, and with voters struggling to stay informed, it's hard to avoid information overload.
Almost every aspect of the vote has its own series of claims and counter-claims, with each campaign also accused of exaggeration and scare stories to get the vote out for their position.
While this has been the case for many implications of the EU referendum, such as defence, immigration and sovereignty, nowhere has it been more prevalent than when it comes to consumer issues.
Both sides have claimed that goods will be cheaper, services more efficient and affordable if the vote goes the way they want. But as a consumer, who can you really trust? And what are the simple facts?
The first thing to remember is that whatever the final decision is, it will be, by its nature, uncertain. There are few precedents for such a move, and it is impossible to know whether some of the proclamations from banks, businesses and foreign leaders about the potential change in their relationship with the UK in the eventuality of a vote to leave are genuine or not.
While consumer confidence and the view of the general outlook of finances has deteriorated with the referendum campaign, it is impossible to know how much of this is down to the possibility of an exit or merely the uncertainty it would breed.
Markets never react well to uncertainty, and the economy of the UK has declined as a result. Yet it's worth remembering, that a vote to leave would not be an immediately certain outcome - the process will be lengthy and require potentially years of negotiations to finally conclude.
In the short-term, it seems unlikely that a vote to leave would be good for consumers. The long-term, however, could offer a different perspective. The UK would certainly be subject to fewer regulations and red tape outside of the UK. But many of those involved in the campaign to leave, such as UKIP, are not those ruling the country.
The extra freedoms will be used differently depending on the administration and circumstances of the time, which are equally uncertain.
The economic situation could certainly improve after the uncertainty by businesses taking advantage of the newer freedoms, but it's impossible to predict exactly what form this might take.
Currently, the UK benefits from a lack of tariffs with the EU as their imports far outstrip their exports - but this is highly likely to change one way or another in the event of a decision to leave the EU.
For these reasons, it's little surprise that most major UK retailers have come down firmly on the side to remain.
While there's no doubt that a decision to leave could, in the right circumstances and with the right governance and management, be a huge boost to the UK economy, there's no way of knowing if or how that could take place.
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13 Jun
In the world of sport, years don't come much bigger than 2016.

Starting on 10th June, a month long feast of football kicked off in the form of the European Championships, being held in France, where the continent's top international teams will do battle for the title currently held by Spain.

Then, in less than a month's time, 'The Greatest Show on Earth', the 31st Olympic Games, will begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The two events, which will be widely watched and supported across the UK, throw up plenty of opportunities for related marketing and advertising activities informed by industry analytics and competitor monitoring, providing companies with the right intelligence required to be ‘top dog’ in the retail sales conversion leagues.
During any major sporting events, eCommerce and highstreet retailers seem to go into overdrive with their competitive streaks.

One of the most effective ploys can be smart pricing strategies to celebrate the holding of the event - these could take the form of special discounts for the duration of the tournament, or perhaps on days when any of the home nations - England, Wales and Northern Ireland - are playing.

Think Tesco's 'Match Winners' special offers on alcohol and food and John Lewis' smart TV offers - they're both vying for the number one spot in their marketplace.

Advertising can supplement these kinds of strategies, notifying potential customers of a 'World Cup special offer', and retail analysis can be performed in order to determine the effectiveness after the event has finished. 

We are specialists in analysing both industry pricing and competitor pricing, so if you are mulling over the best plan of action ahead for either the Euros or the Olympic Games, try one of our free Competitor Monitor trials to see how we can help you stay ahead of the chasing pack.
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07 Jun
The traditional wedding lists of toaster, crockery and dinner sets are falling out of favour according to Competitor Monitor’s recent retail analysis reports.
Today’s modern couples are marrying later in life and cohabiting before tying the knot, meaning the kitchen basics have already been purchased.
Consequently, contemporary couples are becoming more adventurous with their lists, choosing non-essential items which reflect their interests and personalities. 

Our eCommerce industry research and analytics point to an upward trend in the number of electronic gadgets gracing 2016 wedding lists.
The department store John Lewis claims that the NutriBullet juicer,Crockpot slow cooker and George Foreman grill are the most popular items on today's wedding list. The addition of such items, as well as luxury interior finishes, mean that gift lists can now exceed £20,000 in value - a far cry from the humble toaster or carriage clock that appeared on the lists of yesteryear. 

John Lewis’s ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ guarantee and exemplary customer service ensures that the department store maintains the coveted position as the country's leading host of wedding gift lists. However, industry monitoring and analysis shows a new breed of wedding list hosts are gaining popularity and clawing into their market-share.
Established in 2010, the wedding gift list host Prezola, offers competitive pricing and, crucially, a much larger selection of brands and products, from lavish lifestyle boutique brands such as Nordic House and OKA to luxury sound systems by Bang & Olufsen

As couples continue to search for more diverse and innovative ideas for their wedding list products and hosts, Competitor Monitor are able to provide up to the minute retail trend analysiscompetitor and price monitoring as well as reports on industry pricing.
Our market-leading pricing metric software can therefore identify burgeoning trends in the early stages, allowing you to respond quickly and appropriately to your customers needs and, most importantly, stay one step ahead of the competition.
You can take advantage of Competitor Monitor's free trial above.
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02 Jun
Digital is the key to the future of retail, as technology is a means to enhancing the overall customer experience. People who use digital technology socially are becoming increasingly connected in using the same medium for shopping, so any business that doesn't have a reliable online presence is in danger of falling behind.

Recent surveys have showed that the majority of consumers are shopping online today. A study by Ernst and Young revealed that 62% of global consumers go online for at least part of their shopping, while 79% of 25 to 34-year-olds are influenced by social media. Furthermore, 40% of mobile phone users who use social networking sites on their mobile device are likely to share both positive and negative retail experiences.

In the battle for survival in today's challenging economy, it's crucial to install the latest technology to improve your business's efficiency and bring online ordering to the forefront of retail operations.

Retail analytics

Industry and retail analytics
are an important part of the digital retail revolution. The sector's online market is a fast-moving one, where new trends emerge and competition increases at a mind-boggling rate. Consumers use the many online platforms to share ideas and opinions, both with friends and with the general public, about everything from new products to customer service standards.

This trend for online communication for consumers and retailers provides a multitude of data that can be stored and analysed by businesses. Extracting valuable information from the data can help retailers to meet customer demands, improve business performance, increase sales and become a stronger market competitor.

Analytic solutions can help retailers to assure customers a positive experience by developing a personalised customer experience, acquiring new customers and retaining them, building good relationships and providing loyalty initiatives for high-value customers. Harness the power of data to gain an actionable insight into giving your customers a tailored experience that will keep them coming back, time after time.

Importance of ecommerce analysis

It's fair to say that ecommerce space on the internet is increasingly competitive as more businesses, complementary services and platforms join the market. Although setting up an online store can take as little as 10 minutes, of course it takes much more effort to turn the store into a successful business.

By analysing the ecommerce landscape every day, Competitor Monitor can paint a picture of current consumer behaviour and marketing trends in the ecommerce arena, providing businesses with a better chance of reaching their goals. 

Statistics show that 30.5% of all traffic comes from Google, Yahoo and other search engines. This is a significant amount, so it's vital that retailers invest in an SEO strategy to help their rankings on the most popular search engines.

Pricing strategy

Having a pricing strategy in place for your online store is vital, but how do you know the best price for your products? The majority of retailers use one of three basic pricing strategies that play a part in their business's effectiveness.

Anchor pricing establishes a price point that consumers will use as a reference refers for future prices. When sales prices are listed, the original price is also displayed, so customers have a reference point for how much they have saved. When you set the anchor price high, customers will see the high price as normal, so that the sales price seems like a great deal.

Another pricing strategy is a "beat them all" price when you set a price that beats all the competition. Having the lowest prices online is a careful balancing act. It's a useful strategy to meet short term needs, such as boosting sales when it's slow, or emptying your inventory, but in the long term, it's not feasible to do this all the time, as it wouldn't be cost effective.

The third strategy is dynamic pricing, meaning that retailers adapt to changes in the marketplace. Pricing must reflect the real time market so that customers' expectations are met when they arrive at your website. The key to dynamic pricing is good data. If you don't adjust your prices to reflect lower prices in the market, customers won't shop with you. 

Don't underestimate the power of pricing metrics as this represents one of the biggest payback opportunities that's sometimes overlooked. Evaluating your value metric and ensuring it's aligned with your pricing strategy is crucial for optimising your business's profit.
All seem a bit like hard work? It needn't be. Competitor Monitor analyses the marketplace for hundreds of brands and retailers in the UK. Grab your free trial and see how your conversion rates improve.
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31 May
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23 May
A recent report from the independent research consultancy, Retail Economics, claims that many British retailers are "sleep-walking into administration", with underpaid and overstretched consumers opting to save their pennies and stay away from the high street, causing retail businesses to fail. 

Citing the recent collapse of BHS and Austin Reed, Retail Economics' Chief Executive Richard Lim said, "Many of the economic factors supporting households through last year are beginning to unwind and darker clouds are forming on the horizon. Retailers will have to evolve rapidly to stay relevant to consumers and economically viable." 

But wasn't the UK economy supposed to be in a healthy recovery not so long ago? Perhaps it's time to take a critical look at the retail industry and assess this pessimistic view of the state of the nation.

Back in March the IMF warned that the world economy was at "a delicate juncture" and faced an increasing "risk of economic derailment". In his budget speech that same month Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne predicted world-beating growth for the British economy. And the 2.2% growth in GDP last year supports this claim.

However, several troubling factors challenge this, and these provide the substance of Lim's claim. 

First there is the coming inflation rise, which, coupled with a slowdown in employment rates and a lack of growth in salaries, means there is currently low spending power in British households. The temporary economic boost that came out of the dip in oil prices earlier in the year seems to have worn off and now consumers are once again having to tighten their belts.

Lim claims that this has led to general economic gloom. "Consumers are now more pessimistic about the future of the economy than at any time in the last three years," he says in the report.

Part of the problem he perceives is that old-school retailers (such as BHS and Austin Reed) have been able to hold on for so long largely due to the grace of low interest rates and banks' leniency. 

The prescribed method of survival would seem to be adaptability. The retail market has changed enormously in the decades since these chains were founded, and proceeding to do business without constant reference to industry and retail analysis and pricing metrics might no longer be an option. 

Retailers may be eyeing the recent retail disaster stories uneasily, but a few measures can be taken which, if not guaranteeing their survival, will at least make administration less likely, by bringing them up to speed with current industry standards.

Survival might be a matter of aggressively adopting new retail methods for the digital market, but also a more adaptable pricing strategy. Ecommerce analysis allows for a greater understanding of the retail market than ever before, and retailers ignore this at their peril. 

It may be alarmist to claim that retailers are "sleep-walking into administration", but if an over-the-top wake-up call is all it takes to bring long-standing retailers up to speed with current practice and back to the top of their game, then it's a call they'll be glad they received.
Stay on top of the retail landscape and take a free trial of Competitor Monitor's retail pricing analysis tool today.
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16 May

The rise and rise of internet shopping seems unstoppable. You can find virtually any product you need and have it delivered. Simple.

What do my competitors do to increase conversion?
Our competitor tracker software can see that there are retailers still relying on outdated delivery methods, clearing the way for competitors with improved service to step in a take the sale.
For many, the delivery is based on a chain which involves retailers entrusting a consumer’s package to a logistics company. It’s loaded onto a van, taken to a national hub, then a regional hub then sent out for delivery from the local depot. Track said parcel, and you’ll probably find it’s clocked up more miles than you have that month! It can seem very wasteful to have a parcel heading up and down the UK a few times before it reaches you, but that’s the way logistics work. Is it that inefficiency really what we’re stuck with, though? It seems unlikely, as companies are already looking at hi-tech alternatives.
Is drone delivery the future?
On the extreme side of the spectrum, California-based business ‘MatterNet’ specialises in medical supplies and specimens, and they’ve recently taken the first tentative steps into the world of drone delivery. These unmanned flying robots can fly direct from A to B, without worrying about getting stuck in traffic or inclement conditions. It’s not just goods they entrust to drones, either. Their drones carry blood samples to labs, allowing scientists to start work straightaway. The company is also trialling drone delivery of medical supplies to disaster zones, where it would be difficult to get a lorry load of bandages and equipment to physicians treating the wounded.
Of course, there are limits to a drone’s capability. Battery capacity means drones can only travel short distances, so fulfilment centres would only be able to deliver to relative locals via drone. There’s also the weight limit – it seems unlikely that a little quad-copter drone would be able to deliver your new washing machine.
Competitor Monitor’s price comparison software is able to identify every one of your competitor’s shipping rates and service. We can see that Amazon are still the biggest name in online shopping, and thanks to their delivery options, there’s a delivery service for everyone’s needs. Free shipping over £20? They offer that. Free next day delivery for Prime subscribers? They offer that, too. A particular delivery time on a day of your choice? They can arrange that for you. We all like a good deal, and free delivery at a time of our choosing is spoiling us all rotten. This is surely the future of online delivery.
How to give your consumers what they want
The problem is, once we’ve got a taste for the “I want it now” lifestyle, anything less than that is now classed as undesirable. Expensive shipping costs, no online tracking service and no guarantee on your purchase’s arrival date is really off-putting. Let’s imagine that Lucy wants a pair of trainers. Shop A sells them for £30, with free next day delivery. Shop B sells them for £25, but it’s £5 for postage, and delivery is within two to three days. The total cost is the same, but given the choice of sitting at home for three days in the hope your new shoes may turn up, or purchasing from a retailer who can guarantee you’ll be wearing them tomorrow can swing the deal of a dithering buyer.
It’s this kind of data that retailers can utilise to their best advantage through Competitor Monitor’s price tracking tool.
Of course, with the advent of digital items, such as music or game downloads, which can be delivered to your computer in seconds, we’re already enjoying an instant gratification system. Perhaps one day all our goods will be beamed across to us this way. After all, a lot of the space age innovations imagined in 1960s sci-fi are already with us. It’s only a matter of time until the technology turns those futuristic delivery dreams into reality.
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13 May
As human beings, it doesn’t take much to lure us in. Historically, a quirky campaign and some titillating packaging was enough to seal a deal in the marketplace.
However, thanks to the market landscape shifting from shelf view to online, retail analytics highlight that imagery has never played a more vital role in final buying decisions.
Does imagery really influence the online consumer?
In a virtual environment, the inability to touch or experience a product means some kind of imagery, be it still or moving, is necessary – a recent report by Competitor Monitor found that web pages with relevant images had 94% more views than those without. It’s a bit like walking into a shop blindfolded and buying something anyway - you simply wouldn’t do it, would you?
Being able to visualise a product outside of its virtual environment is one of the key factors related to the use of online imagery that will affect a consumer’s decision to buy. Looking at this in more detail, some products also need to be seen to be working. For example, our ecommerce analysis shows us that cleverly staged images showing a person using a product are far more likely to sell than a static studio shot with a stark white background.
Food retailer, Schwan, has one of the highest e-commerce conversion rates online and much of that is down to the sensitive use of environment in their images.
How does imagery influence consumer behaviour?
Another important factor is emotion. Using a range of images, it’s possible to create a story and, in turn, an emotional link with a product. For example, when we look across the toy industry landscape and analyse online product listing strategies, you can see that retailers employ imagery tactics that are essentially selling an experience to consumers. Images include children playing happily with their sibling, having a great time in the back garden or educating themselves independently through play. These images portray something more to consumers than buying another toy, they offer something that will make their children’s lives more enjoyable and their lives a little easier.
A number of different brands in different industries have varying approaches to utilising imagery online. For example, a consumer electronics manufacturer like Sony might use a 360-degree panorama. This way, a consumer will be able to see a product in its entirety. With a lot of money at stake for, say, a brand new DSLR camera. It’s important the whole thing is available for inspection.
Despite this, bigger is not always better. The Competitor Monitor industry insights show that using too many images can result in the very real issue of information overload. Bombarded by images, consumers are likely to switch off and opt for another site. It’s all about striking a balance. If selling a product, the images need to be useful; maybe they’re conveying a lifestyle, maybe they’re demonstrating a product, either way, they need to be there for a reason.
Competitor Monitor’s unique industry analysis tool allows retailers and manufacturers to monitor competitor’s behaviour relating to imagery with instant access to every stock listing and its data.
You can start a free trial with Competitor Monitor today to ensure your brand stays ahead of the game.
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11 May
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09 May
The market for kid’s toys is enormous. Worldwide it turns over almost $84 billion a year. A huge percentage of these sales are carried out online and web retailers are well aware of the formulas needed to shift their stock. 
There are a number of factors that influence whether consumers will commit to a purchase and, in this highly competitive market, they are worth following to the letter.
Quality reigns supreme in the kid’s toy market. With so many counterfeit products available, particularly from the East Asian market, parents are keen to avoid potentially harmful fakes. 
This quality is emphasised online through careful, sensitive branding. Take Toys R Us for example. Their website features imagery of children enjoying their products in a safe and happy environment. Just as other lifestyle brands promote their products through potential experiences, online toy retailers are keen to stress the integrity of theirs. The difference in this market is that toy retailers are battling on two fronts; firstly, they need to attract the kids in, but the transaction will usually take place between the retailer and the parent.
Imagery has to reflect both of these potential draws – bright, colourful and enticing to kids and safe, reliable and well-built to adults. 
For independent toy retailers, this brand integrity is harder to achieve. For this reason, many will forfeit a proportion of their profits in order to host a product on Amazon or another reputable site. This enormous shop window not only attracts many more visitors by hosting a product in this way, it’s possible to piggyback the previously established emotional relationship a consumer might have with that brand. By working together too, online toy retailers can entice customers in. Links between independent online stores can help, but it’s a risky strategy. 
Another key factor is timing. Or, in simpler terms, Christmas. This time of year is incredibly important for online toy retailers, as Valentine’s Day is for chocolatiers, and a lot of extra effort in terms of marketing is usually expended around this period. You’ll also see trends. For retailers of online toys, being able to monitor industry sales patterns, particularly around Christmas time, is essential to drawing in customers. Here again though, media hype – take the drone explosion at the end of last year – can lead to cheap imitations, so, once more, integrity is hugely important. 
Of course, price is another one of the major influencing buying factors. Toy retailers are forever competing with one another over price, particularly with the more popular trending items. Larger, more successful retailers are often working with online competitor price tracking and ecommerce comparison software as a way of staying ahead of the retail game, particularly around busy periods such as summer and Christmas.
Unfortunately, for smaller retailers. this can quickly push them out of the marketplace but there is a way back in: shipping costs. Competitor Monitor research has found that up to 55% of online consumers have abandoned shopping carts as a result of extortionate rates. Bring down delivery costs or increasing their efficiency and you instantly entice custom, particularly from parents who might be spending a lot of money in a number of virtual marketplaces.
Each of these influential purchasing factors can be closely monitored through Competitor Monitor’s price and product tracking software, helping brands and retailers to stay ahead of their competition regardless of season or trends.
You can start your free price monitoring trial with Competitor Monitor by getting in touch with us here.
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15 Jan
As the decorations come down, the last mince pie eaten and the labour force returns to work, festive trading numbers have begun to emerge.
With large retailers such as Next and Marks & Spencer reporting disappointing trading figures, it gives an idea of the scale of market as a whole. 2015 in general already proved to be a volatile year for retailers and the run-up to Christmas was supposed to make up for the shortfall.
We carried out some research on the market as a whole and attributed heavy and unpredictable discounting, online shopping and interestingly, stock availability, as key issues that retailers faced. Alongside that, our findings showed that 85 percent of retailers without an online presence suffered the most. Failure of retailers to address this in 2016 could prove to be fatal. Primark is one of the few remaining retailers that does not sell items online and they reported flat sales.
Joshua Bamfield, Professor of the Centre for Retail Research, said: “Household name chains could cut 100 or more of their stores to focus more online. There are a number of walking wounded. Due to constant sales many now refuse to buy items unless there are big discounts.”
Next reported a 0.4 percent increase in total sales with a drop in retail sales by 0.5 percent for the 60 days to 24th December. It’s online and catalogue service, Directory, fared slightly better with sales increasing by 2 percent. Marks and Spencer faced a 5.8 percent fall in sales of general in the 13 weeks to 26th December. Sales of its popular food sales had its best ever Christmas where sales climbed 0.4 percent in the period. Its Chief Executive is to step down in April.
There is however, some optimistic news. John Lewis reported a stellar Christmas trading period as sales rose 5.1 percent compared to last year. 
Conversely, retailers with a strong or complete online presence have seen sizeable growth. A good example of this is Ted Baker. Their retail sales grew by 10 percent with online sales up 39.1 percent. They maintained that avoiding pre-Christmas promotions by starting sales after Christmas and not taking part in Black Friday also contributed to its positive figures.
ASOS, an online fashion and beauty retailer, enjoyed a jump of 22 percent in total retail in the four months to December.
It’ll be interesting to see how this month and 2016 as a whole unfolds. Despite higher household incomes this year and a fall in oil prices, will this mean tills will be ringing this year? Not necessarily. Retailers must play it smart this year and combine efficiency with technology to stay significant. They will also have to address the issue of attracting shoppers that are drunk on discounts sooner rather than later. The bloodbath that was predicted after Christmas didn’t quite materialise albeit some retailers are walking wounded, it’s time for retailers to build on their successes.
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16 Dec
At Competitor Monitor, we track thousands of toys every day and regularly come across interesting findings in our data. This week, in honour of the new Star Wars movie, we decided to explore further into this data to examine price changes and the availability of popular Star Wars toys in the run up to Christmas. 
Merchandise based on popular film franchises such as Star Wars can be a real money spinner for film studios and retailers alike. With The Force Awakens instalment due for release in the UK today, has it had much impact on the pricing of Star Wars merchandise over the past month?
Let’s take a look:
  • There are currently over 750 Star Wars branded toys for sale online with prices ranging from £1.84 all the way up to £350.00.  Amazon currently lists the largest number of Star Wars toys than any other retailer and carries out the most price changes.
  • Our research shows that overall, prices for Star Wars branded toys have fluctuated in price rather frequently over the past 30 days. 
  • Many retailers have kept static prices on the newest and most popular products but retailers that had lower prices to begin with have gradually increased their prices to be more in line with the market. 
  • Star Wars The Force Awakens Micro Machines Millennium Falcon Playset had the most price changes in the last 30 days; 30 changes with 15 price increases and 15 price decreases.
  • The most popular Star Wars branded LEGO product with the most price changes was the Star Wars 75093: Death Star Final Duel. There has been up to a 24 percent reduction on this product in the last 30 days which might explain the shortage of this item being in stock. It is currently out of stock on LEGO’s own online shop – parents take note!
  • The LEGO Star Wars 75104: Kylo Ren's Command Shuttle which featured on the 2015 DreamToys Top 12 Christmas Toys list, can be found cheaper at around half of retailers but the price has increased at four retailers in the past week.
  • Last year’s film hit Frozen has much less variety of toys on the market this year. With price changes also less frequent, even on the popular toys such as the Disney Frozen Sing Along with Elsa, it’s safe to say that Star Wars is dominating the toy market this year. 
We will be monitoring the products above to see how they change in price and availability into the New Year. Let us know if you wish to make any comments on this blog, we’d love to hear from you!
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