Report finds retail in holding pattern, identifies major trends

Jones Lang LaSalle unveils 'North America Year-end Retail Outlook'

NEW YORK — The retail sector continues to tentatively edge toward recovery, buoyed by a strong start to the holiday shopping season; but several obstacles stand in the way of sustained progress in 2012, according to Jones Lang LaSalle’s "North America Year-end Retail Outlook."

“Everyone, including consumers, is in a continued wait-and-see mode, delaying major buying and investment decisions until they see how several dynamics play out, including the elections next year," Jones Lang LaSalle Retail president and CEO Greg Maloney said. "Until we have some market certainty in the U.S. and overseas, plus sustained high levels of consumer confidence, driven by higher paychecks, a stronger stock market and an improved housing market, a robust recovery, will elude the retail sector."

One of the major trends impacting retail identified in the report is the growing prevalence of "Web-influenced sales," whereby are consumers researching products online, reading reviews and searching for the local best deals. The attractiveness of this practice lies in consumers' desire for immediate gratification as well as the ability to save on shipping costs by buying locally in-store.

It’s estimated that web-influenced sales will generate almost $1.13 trillion in U.S. sales this year and, by 2015, will represent approximately 44% of total retail sales, or $1.55 trillion. Moreover, even though e-commerce sales are growing at a fast clip (10% annually), cross-channel commerce is growing even more rapidly, and is estimated to grow to five times the e-commerce market by 2015.

"To survive in the long-term, local retailers will have to ensure their products show up online, that the site reflects accurate availability, and that the online and in-store experiences are as seamless as possible," said Lew Kornberg, managing director of corporate retail solutions at Jones Lang LaSalle. "The rewards are direct — not only do shoppers come in for the researched product, they also stick around to buy other items once in-store."

Forrester Research reported that 45% of shoppers interviewed said they bought extra items once in a store, spending, on average, $154 on additional purchases.

Other major trends include:

  • Consumers' increased reliance on their smartphones and tablets as an in-store shopping companion will motivate retailers to improve their mobile retail websites and capabilities and add mobile loyalty programs;

  • Amazon.com's entrance into the designer fashion market with high-end fashion items, an online style guide and fashion recommendations based on previous choices will raise the stakes in this sector as the online retailer giant leverages its easy-to-shop, hassle-free reputation with fashion-forward consumers, eBay also launched its fashion outlet this year, offering savings up to 70%; and

  • Consumers are splitting their grocery budget and time among several types of food retailers, from wholesale clubs to organic supermarkets to regular grocery stores. Mid-market chains, most squeezed by this trend, are responding by adopting one of two strategies — upgrading their shopping experience with increased organic selections or focusing on bargains.

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