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Multichannel proves key to Christmas success

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Retailers are reporting buoyant sales in the approach to Christmas. But while some are celebrating the success of their multichannel seasonal strategies, one supplier has warned that those without such strategies risk missing out.

John Lewis says it’s enjoying “omnichannel success” in its Christmas trading. Over the course of last Saturday and Sunday the department store had more than a million visits to, while the week to November 24 was a record one for Click & Collect sales. In the same week, 22 of its stores saw sales up compared to the same week last year. Total sales for the week were up by 11% and sales at were up by 34.6%. “With such positive sentiment around our brand, our proposition looking strong in shops and online, and our operations in good shape, we’ve great momentum going into the crucial final five weeks of Christmas trading,” said Peter Ruis, buying and brand director at John Lewis. “It’s all to play for.”

Etsy, the US craft marketplace which trades in the UK as well as markets around the world, says its sellers made more sales on the US’ Cyber Monday than at any time in its seven year history. Average sales were up by 26% compared to 2011, and almost one in three visitors were shopping on mobile devices.

Mobile Fun says it’s expecting a bumper month of December, rather than focusing on the single busiest day of the year, December 3. The mobile accessories retailer notched up its first million pound month last December, and expects that it will see a 21% rise in sales during December 2012.

And independent online boutique Stone Bridge says it’s expecting Christmas sales to be up by at least 30% over the same period last year. Its founder and owner Melissa Hill said she was “floored by how busy we were,” on the Monday just gone. “Turnover was nearly triple the same day last year and transactions were up by 72%.”

Chris Thomas, chief executive and founder of the multichannel shoe retailer, Cloggs , spoke of the rise of mobile. He said: “Compared to last year, we have seen a 1,000% increase in the number of sales on mobile devices so we are very much aware of the power of shopping on the move. This Christmas, shoppers will be looking to combine convenience with cost cutting. As a result, we will see a greater use of mobile devices as people pick up bargains and share their deals via social media.

“Whereas previously, shoppers found it convenient to shop online in the comfort of their own homes, we are now seeing a new era of shoppers who are taking that convenience one step further and are making purchases whenever and wherever they want.”

The rise in multichannel shopping habits was also evidenced in a new study from designer discount site BrandAlley, published today.

A YouGov study from BrandAlley found that 60% of shoppers are doing more of their Christmas shopping online than ever. UK consumers will spend an average £401.70 this year, down from £426.67 last year. But 45% of that will be spent online.

BrandAlley chief executive Rob Feldmann said: “The economic downturn means consumers want to make sure they are getting the best deals. Our research shows that 86% of people shop around before purchasing and increasingly they like to do this from the comfort of their own home on a PC, laptop, mobile or tablet device.”

The study also detected an increase in people shopping in the growing popularity of the tablet whilst watching TV. With 63% of shoppers now searching for purchases online after 6pm, when many shops have closed, it gives etailers a further advantage during the run up to Christmas. Around 15% of those surveyed used a tablet device to shop online compared to a nominal amount last year. Shopping via a traditional PC however has decreased with 23% of people shopping less, in favour of more mobile devices.

Feldmann added: “Shopping via mobile devices is the biggest growth opportunity in online retail today and we expect it to account for 25% of all sales next year. With 4G being rolled out in the UK and an even greater influx of Tablet devices to the market, this figure could well exceed our estimations as online becomes a true dominant channel for retail.”

Convergent commerce provider Venda warns that those who do not have a joined up multichannel strategy could miss out on millions in revenue. Its group chief executive Eric Abensur says examples of retailers who have gone into administration in 2012 highlight the necessity for others to compete for sales online as well as off.

“The harsh reality is that those major retailers we’ve seen close down were those that failed to fullyembrace the online and digital world,” said Abensur. “UK retailers need to seize every opportunity to convert Christmas shoppers into customers, not just browsers. This means supporting their customers shopping journeys through a multichannel ecommerce strategy during the peak Christmas fortnight.

“Ecommerce technologies on mobile, tablets and via social media will drive more shoppers to the high street and increase retail sales. Rather than ecommerce damaging high street stores, new technological innovations will be the saviour of town centre shopping. Successful retailers over this period will be the ones who no longer question the viability of ecommerce – mobile or social. Instead they’ve discovered how best to converge these channels.”

He added: “Cyber Monday on December 3 will mark the start of a very busy festive period for stores. Despite the tough economic times shoppers won’t spend less this Christmas but they will spend differently. Spending this year will be more fragmented than ever: divided between the High Street, desktop shopping, mobile, tablets and social media platforms, as shoppers look to grab the best deals. Spending on December 3 will be greatest on fashion products but there will also be significant growth, compared to previous years, in both the beauty and home furnishing sectors.”

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