US Retail Sales Up 26.3% in March, one year since first lockdown
US retail sales (excluding automotive and gasoline) increased 26.3% in March compared to the year-ago period, and online sales grew 56.8%, according to Mastercard Spending Pulse.
Sales in the first half of March edged up 1.6% compared to a year ago, when consumers hit stores to stock up in the face of the pandemic. In comparison, during the second half of the month, retail sales rose 46.9% year-over-year, reflecting the positive boost of the stimulus and the lockdowns that weakened retail sales in the same period in 2020.
In March 2020, discretionary sectors such as apparel and jewelry experienced a dip in spend as people first started social distancing. This led to significantly elevated growth rates this March. Apparel sales rose 60.6% compared to the year-ago period. They rose 18.7% when compared to March 2019.
At the same time, essential sectors such as grocery faced the opposite situation. Grocery sales fell into negative growth territory this March when compared to the strong growth in March 2020 as consumers stocked up. However, grocery sales rose 7.5% in March 2021 when compared to March 2019. (View source 1, 2)
Consumer Confidence Soars in March
The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose in March to its highest reading in a year, after a modest increase in February. The Index now stands at 109.7, up from 90.4 in February.
Consumers’ assessment of current conditions and their short-term outlook improved significantly, an indication that economic growth is likely to strengthen further in the coming months. The renewed optimism boosted their purchasing intentions for homes, autos and several big-ticket items. At the same time concerns of inflation in the short-term rose, most likely due to rising gas prices at the pump, which may temper spending intentions in the months ahead. (View source)
Hudson is rolling out an automated, interactive vending machine “stores” that are available 24/7 for hurried airport shoppers. The “stores” have interactive touchscreens sealed with an anti-microbial shield to showcase merchandise images and provide product information.
In machines that feature eyewear brands, personalized augmented reality (AR) technology installed directly into the machine’s interface will provide customers a virtual try-on experience that enables them to browse and find frames. (View source)
Students in Burlington, VT are now attending high school in a former Macy’s department store when the local school was closed after toxic chemicals were found in the building and soil.
The building underwent a $3.5 million retrofit supported by the state that added partial walls for classrooms while keeping some Macy’s remnants, like the sparkly white tile floors and bright red carpeting.
The library is housed in the former Macy’s china department, with books displayed on under-lit shelves, while the gym is in a former store’s warehouse and is still unfinished.
Despite some challenges with noise because the classroom walls don’t rise to the ceiling, the school is working. Unlike the other school, classrooms are closer together, so students get to see their classmates and teachers, creating a sense of community.
For now, the district has leased the building for 3 1/2 years while it learns more about the chemicals at the old school and what needs to be done. (View source)
Pizza Hut is now introducing “The Hut Lane”, a dedicated digital order pick-up window that enables customers to pull up to the dedicated window, grab their order and go, at over 1,500 locations across the country. (View source)
Trader Joe’s is offering a free app designed to make the world a more accessible place for people with cognitive and intellectual disabilities.
The company partnered with MagnusCards to launch an app that uses digitized “card decks” to guide users through tasks and activities that might otherwise feel challenging or overwhelming.
Using visual cues and step-by-step instructions (with optional audio enhancement), each deck focuses on a different aspect of the Trader Joe’s shopping experience. Examples include “Checking Out Your Items” and “Sensory Experiences in the Store.” (View source 1, 2)
Additional Newsworthy Headlines
Best Buy is piloting a $199.99 annual membership program with free device installations, a concierge service for tech support, and other perks. The program, Best Buy Beta, will be available in about 60 Best Buy stores in six states by the end of this month. It also includes free shipping without order minimums, extended return windows, and exclusive sales. (View source)
Costco sales rose 17.6% to $18.21 billion in March, from $15.49 billion in the year-ago period. The retailer said same-store sales rose 16%, including a 13.9% rise for U.S. comparable-store sales. Online sales jumped 57.7%.
The U.S. regions with the strongest sales increases in March were the Southeast, Texas, and Midwest. Internationally Japan, Korea, and the U.K. turned in the top performances. (View source)
David’s Bridal customers can now contact the retailer 24/7 via the LivePerson-based Zoey mobile CRM tool to book appointments, text with stylists to resolve questions or get advice, and place secure orders. (View source)
Dick’s Sporting Goods
Dick’s has opened experiential in-store soccer shops in 34 of its locations. The shops will offer premium products and a high level of service from in-store soccer experts who are specially trained to help customers find the equipment they need and the right fit. The shops will feature such in-store elements as soccer trail cages, licensed jersey cubes, and an updated cleat shop. (View source)
LG is exiting the smartphone business to “enable the company to focus resources in growth areas such as electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics, artificial intelligence and business-to-business solutions, as well as platforms and services.” (View source)
Signet Jewelers (parent company of Zales, Jared, and Kay Jewelers) has acquired Rocksbox, a jewelry rental subscription platform. Rocksbox allows its monthly members to rent exclusive and designer jewelry styles via its online platform. Rocksbox provides Signet with an additional point of entry for self-purchasing women customers, a segment in which the jeweler is currently under-developed. (View source)
Taco Bell will conduct drive-up interviews at its job fairs on April 21st to adhere to COVID-19 safety precautions. (View source)
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