Retail sales from the last quarter of 2019 in Hampton Roads is as inconstant as the weather, the latest Retail Pulse survey reports.
Smaller local retailers, frequently called mom & pop stores, had a mixed fourth quarter in 2019, although a slight majority (55%) reported an increase in sales compared to the previous year
The Retail Pulse survey, conducted annually by Retail Alliance, the Hampton Roads’ merchants association, gathers post-holiday statistics of local stores, asking questions relating to retail sales, holiday challenges, and future challenges.
Of the retailers with e-commerce stores, online sales make up 23% of their overall sales. Growth of their online sales has varied from flat (25%) to increases of 15+% (13%). Overall, 75% of the stores that have an e-commerce element had positive growth in the last 12 months.
BRICK & MORTAR vs OVERALL SALES
Overall, brick and mortar sales differ marginally when compared to overall sales in quarter 4 of 2019. The only marked difference is in the amount of growth, with an increase of 1-4% stronger with overall sales vs brick and mortar.
ATTRACTING CUSTOMERS TO BRICK & MORTAR STORES
Digital advertising is clearly the focus for local retailers this holiday season as they try to compete with larger big-box retailers and online giants. It is a crowded channel, but many believe it to be an affordable option to attract more customers to their store. Email marketing is also a strong option for 40 percent of retailers and 26 percent hope that customers will remember them and pay a return visit to their store.
Nearly a quarter still use traditional advertising channels such as television, print and radio but less are using direct mail and coupons or making phone calls.
BIGGEST CHALLENGES 2019 vs 2018
The two biggest challenges for local retailers are limited marketing and advertising dollars and consumers’ lack of awareness of locally owned businesses. Many of the challenges that retailers face remain unchanged year over year, as limited marketing and advertising dollars may impact awareness of their stores, along with battling the continuing growth of online sales.
Unfortunately, retailers believe their challenges will remain unchanged in 2020. Budgets remain tight, impacting their ability to market their stores, leading to a lack of awareness from consumers, who are also being driven by the convenience and supposed affordability of online shopping. Concerns about the economy and cash flow are also challenges reported by approximately 3 in 10 retailers.