Samsung continue to innovate

Samsung Electronics,the world’s best-selling maker of smart TVs, is simplifying the interface of its internet connected televisions to make them more user-friendly and to improve its ability to make money from add-on services.

It also announced at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show (CES) that it would be showing a super-sized 110in (279cm) 4k ultra-high resolution LCD TV; a 55in OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display that will simultaneously show two different programmes full-screen; and an oven that can cook two meals at different temperatures.

Strong online performance last December

The British Retail Consortium has reported that strong growth in online shopping stopped retail sales falling in December 2012. In the month sales were up 1.5% compared with a year earlier. Like-for-like sales rose 0.3%. This narrow gap between total sales and like-for-like sales demonstrates the small number of new store openings in 2012. Online sales still only account for just over 10% of total retail sales.

Department stores also did well, particularly John Lewis which saw a rise in sales of electricals after the demise of Comet (not a sign that the market is growing but that sales are being reallocated).

Official figures for retail sales in December will be released on 18th January.

65% prefer to shop in store

A study from Hitachi Consulting UK, which questioned 1,000 UK adult consumers, revealed that 65% would rather buy in shops, 20% prefer to shop online, and 13% prefer a combination of channels. Chris Gates, director of retail at Hitachi Consulting UK, said: “Despite the massive growth in online shopping over the years, it’s good to see that consumers haven’t fallen out of love with the British high street. The retail sector has clearly been having a difficult time lately, but our research shows that in-store shopping still has a crucial role in the modern shopping journey… The real challenge for retailers is therefore to focus on the areas that consumers really value when it comes to the in-store experience, by implementing better management systems, employee training and self-service options, whilst also promoting the flexibility and convenience of their online offering as well.”

Comet investigation launched

All 49 remaining Comet stores will close today and The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has launched an investigation into the purchase and administration of the retailer. A report by administrators Deloitte says that secured creditors including Hailey Acquisitions (the vehicle Opcapita used to buy Comet), will receive only £52 million of the £145 million which they are owed. Unsecured creditors, including HM Revenue & Customs (owed £26.2 million), are likely to receive nothing. The UK taxpayer will take a hit of £49.4 million to cover the redundancy, holiday and notice pay owed to Comet’s 6,600 workers.

Deloitte has received 118 expressions of interest in buying Comet – with four making offers – but all have been withdrawn due to the state of Comet’s finances.

OFT DSR & SOGA Hubs – useful quizzes

There are fun, and informative, quizzes on the Office of Fair Trading Distance Selling Regulatins (DSR) hub – very useful if your staff are not 100% certain about the law: http://www.oft.gov.uk/business-advice/treating-customers-fairly/dshome/quiz-list.

Similar quizzes are available on http://www.oft.gov.uk/business-advice/treating-customers-fairly/sogahome/quizlist to cover the Sale of Goods Act (SOGA).

“Showrooming” increases

A new study by global loyalty group Aimia has revealed that retailers are likely to see significant growth in “showrooming” activity in the run-up to Christmas – that is, shoppers using smartphones to compare prices in-store before purchasing items at a lower price online. Apparently, 28% of men are “showroomers” compared to fewer than 1 in 5 women. The most prolific “showroomers” are aged 25-34, with 59% of this age group shopping online to avoid the crowds.

Price is the most important factor in Christmas gift shopping decisions amongst both men and women online – even higher than customer service and home delivery. Aimia’s digital director, Jed Murphy, said: “Consumers, particularly men, are more price conscious than ever, so if price remains the driving factor, retailers need to offer ‘Price +’, whether that’s a free 5 year warranty, a no-quibble return policy or loyalty bonus points when the product is bought in store.”

Take advantage of demise of Comet

Robin Millwood, CIH chairman, told retailers and manufacturers at this year’s CIH Suppliers’ Lunch at the Dorchester not to miss out on the opportunities afforded by the closure of Comet. He said: “With the demise of Comet, there could and should be a large share coming our way and we will be calling meetings in the New Year to discuss this with you. Because, unless you handle it carefully, you will have two large dogs – DSG and DRL – wagging their tails and you, the suppliers, will not be able to control them or what will happen to an already troubled market-place. We will also need your support to handle the business-to-business opportunities that are appearing since Comet failed and the void it left.”

Surge in mobile sales on Ebay

More than 3 million UK shoppers logged onto Ebay using their mobile devices on Sunday 2 December – almost double the number on the same day last year. This day proved to be a record-breaking ‘Super Sunday’ for Ebay, with over nine million unique UK visitors to the site – an 18% increase in visitors from the same day in 2011. Some 25 items per second were purchased on its website in the UK via mobiles and tablets on the day.

Christmas Day online shopping

A study by Intersperience has found that 27% of people plan to start doing their sales shopping on Christmas day using a digital device. Intersperience’s CEO Paul Hudson said: “Whilst this is one of only two days of the year shops aren’t allowed to open, it seems that our insatiable appetite for a bargain won’t let us rest. The internet has provided a route for us to start sales shopping earlier. This shows, more than ever, how important it is for retailers to have a good presence online.”

The survey also found that almost 1 in 10 parents plan to buy their under 18’s a tablet computer whilst almost 3 in 10 adults are hoping to receive one for Christmas.

Deloitte optimistic over Christmas sales

Research by Deloitte says that £3.2bn of in-store Christmas sales will be influenced by smartphones, with consumers using them to research prices, store Christmas shopping lists and engage with friends and family via social media. Another £330 million worth of Christmas purchases sales are expected to be made directly through smartphones, and a further £500m through tablets. Deloitte has also forecast another strong year for UK online retail, with expected sales increases this Christmas of 17% (an increase of 1% for total retail sales).

Deloitte’s UK head of retail Ian Geddes commented: “We remain cautious on the long-term outlook for UK retail, but there are more reasons to be optimistic than pessimistic this Christmas. Consumer confidence has gradually improved over the course of the year and despite the recent increase in inflation, it is much lower than it was 12 months ago, easing the pressure on households.

Deloitte’s head of multichannel retail Colin Jeffrey added: “It is also going to be a click-and-collect Christmas with those retailers who have invested in this service in line to do well as these customers spend more and collections drive footfall into stores.”