The best retailers combine bricks and clicks — Richard Schmalensee

MIT Sloan Professor Richard Schmalensee

MIT Sloan Professor Richard Schmalensee

From Harvard Business Review

Retail profits are plummeting. Stores are closing. Malls are emptying. The depressing stories just keep coming. Reading the Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Target earnings announcements is about as uplifting as a tour of an intensive care unit. The Internet is apparently taking down yet another industry. Brick and mortar stores seem to be going the way of the yellow pages. Sure enough, the Census Bureau just released data showing that online retail sales surged 15.2 percent between the first quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016.

But before you dump all of your retail stocks, there are more facts you should consider. Looking only at that 15.2 percent “surge” would be misleading. It was an increase was on a small base of 6.9 percent. Even when a tiny number grows by a large percentage terms, it is often still tiny.

More than 20 years after the internet was opened to commerce, the Census Bureau tells us that brick and mortar sales accounted for 92.3 percent of retail sales in the first quarter of 2016. Their data show that only 0.8 percent of retail sales shifted from offline to online between the beginning of 2015 and 2016.

So, despite all the talk about drone deliveries to your doorstep, all the retail execs expressing angst over consumers going online, and even a Presidential candidate exclaiming that Amazon has a “huge antitrust problem,” the Census data suggest that physical retail is thriving. Of course, the shuttered stores, depressed execs, and tanking stocks suggest otherwise. What’s the real story?

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Brick-and-mortar retailers should nix deep discounts to make most of jittery shopping season–Sharmila C. Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

From The Conversation

Brick-and-mortar retailers have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride this holiday season as early expectations of strong consumer spending were weighed down by the uncertainty prompted by the election.

That’s on top of the usual jitters about the slow demise of Black Friday and more consumer cash gravitating to online retail.

That has made projections about this year’s holiday shopping season more of a guessing game than usual, but one aspect has now become clear: The rush by retailers to deeply discount merchandise will likely not prove to be beneficial to these retailers in the long term.

My research in “business to business” marketing suggests that instead of enacting ever-steeper price cuts that erode margins, both major retailers like Macy’s and small mom-and-pop stores would be much better off leveraging their physical presence as a source of strength rather than weakness by focusing on the personal touch that only they can provide.

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How Not to Get Ripped Off on Black Friday — Juanjuan Zhang and T. Tony Ke

MIT Sloan Prof. Juanjuan Zhang

MIT Sloan Prof. Juanjuan Zhang

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. T. Tony Ke

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. T. Tony Ke

From Fortune

Don’t get seduced by the hype.

The holiday season is upon us and—based on all the Internet ads, television commercials, and store fliers about—it appears you’ve been granted a golden opportunity to reap huge savings on gifts for everyone on your shopping list.

We are, of course, being facetious—store sales are little more than hype and hyperbole conducted to move merchandise and boost retailers’ bottom lines. And yet even the savviest shoppers among us can be drawn in by the plethora of psychological tricks stores employ to get us to make impulse purchases and overspend.

Do not despair. It is possible to show restraint and become a more rational shopper. Whether you’re planning to head to the mall on Black Friday, traipse down Main Street on Small Business Saturday, or fire up your laptop on Cyber Monday, all you have to do is remember these three basic principles.

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Using optimization to improve bundle recommendations and pricing – Georgia Perakis

MIT Sloan Prof. Georgia Perakis

MIT Sloan Professor Georgia Perakis

From The Huffington Post

When you shop online, it is common for retailers to offer additional items in a bundle to try to increase sales. For instance, if you are buying towels, the seller may offer matching washcloths. Or if you are buying an airline ticket, you may be asked if you also want to purchase inflight Wifi and premium seating. If this “bundle” is appealing to you in terms of the items offered and the price, you might be motivated to buy it all. If not, the items or services are left on the table, eventually getting marked down even more.

With the online market projected to grow 57% from 2013 to 2018, retailers have the potential to significantly increase their profits through bundling. This strategy can be beneficial for customers too if they are presented with desirable items they otherwise may have missed — and at better prices. The key is creating an attractive enough bundle to incentivize the buyer to click “add to cart.”

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The most rotten part about Thanksgiving Day — It’s time for America’s retail industry to change its ways — Zeynep Ton

MIT Sloan Visiting Prof. Zeynep Ton

MIT Sloan Visiting Prof. Zeynep Ton

From Fortune

This year, all kinds of holiday shopping traditions are being upended as desperate retailers do everything they can think of to increase sales. On what’s being called “Gray Thursday,” retailers like Walmart WMT 0.85% , Toys“R”Us, Target TGT 0.37% , and Kmart are giving shoppers the jump on Black Friday by opening on the evening of Thanksgiving, presumably after you’ve had enough turkey and cranberry sauce. JC Penney JCP 1.57% is opening even earlier — at 3 p.m.

This is a rotten break for employees forced to work while the rest of the family gathers together, as I point out here. REI, the outdoor sports and gear retailer, seems to be taking another approach, closing its 143 outlets on bothThanksgiving AND Black Friday. This move may earn REI a lot of publicity and goodwill. It is also consistent with the company’s brand as an environmentally concerned business and its “get out there” message: In this busy world, you don’t get enough time with your family or with nature. Why not use the holiday to enjoy the very things that REI promotes? You can always shop for our products later.

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