Out With The Old, In With The New: Technology Decides It All

Everyday you as a consumer are exposed to hundreds of thousands of brands. Over the decades the shopping industry has exploded with most brands disappearing at the same rate new ones appear, yet some brands have stood the cluttered test of time – one of those is Macy’s.

Created in 1858 by Rowland Hussy Macy the Macy’s store was originally a dry goods store. Macy’s started to gain notable recognition in the 1900s with its holiday window displays and the hiring of Santa Claus for the stores. In 1924 the store moved to its current NYC location, on the corner of Broadway and 34th Street. This year was also the first Macy’s Day Parade, which was organized to celebrate immigrant employees new American Heritage.

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In 1944, Macy’s became apart of the Federated Department Stores, Inc., renamed Macy’s Inc. creating the world’s largest department store. Today, Macy’s has 800 stores in the United States and sells merchandise online.

Macy’s isn’t the only iconic retailer – Sears Roebuck ring a bell? Starting in 1886, the mail order company prospered as it was able to provide low cost alternative to farmers. As mail order plants transitioned into stores, Sears found their place in city life and the retailer soon became a retailer giant. Today the store owns 863 mall-based operations and 1200 other locations including hardware, outlet, tire, and battery stores.

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Nowadays Macy’s and Sears are direct competitors, but it seems Sears, the company who invented mail order, can’t quite figure out online order.

Holiday sales account for a large indicator of profit margins and often depict the health of a company. Sears seems to be in critical condition – US stores suffered a 9.2 percent drop. In decline for some time now, and with little to no improvement, some speculate the store could be gone by 2017.

The history of an iconic brand is something that should be cultivated in your identity – it induces credibility, shows longevity, and prompts nostalgia. Yet being historic isn’t merely enough to remain vibrant. Iconic companies remain iconic because they are able to cultivate lasting relationships with consumers – at all time periods – and that means evolving.

Looking at each retailers attempt to reach customers during the holiday seasons could explain Sears 9.2 percent drop in sales. Both have social media accounts, yet social media presence is widely disproportionate. Macy’s Instagram account has 150,00 followers while Sears has two Instagram accounts – “Sears” and “Sears Style” – yet both of the followers combined don’t even reach 8,000. A huge missed opportunity for Sears – Instagram is leading the way in social media, growing faster than Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest combined.

According to Gary Vaynerchuk’s article “The Road to Black Friday: Macy’s vs. Sears”, the use of social media by Sears is lazy. Choosing to ignore the social media culture they have posted irrelevant and uninteresting content such as a link to one of their commercials and an original YouTube video. While Macy’s post content that is culturally relevant, trendy, and formed around pop culture.

Our culture today has switched, as James Twitchell describes it, “In the last generation we have almost completely reversed the poles of shame so that where we were once ashamed of consuming too much (religious shame), we are now often ashamed of consuming the wrong brands (shoppers’ shame)”. In this day in age a brand establishes and remains relevance by relationship cultivation, reinforcement, and engagement forged through technology – the Internet and social media. It seems Sear’s inability to adapt to technology has prevented them being able to participate in the younger crowds culture leading in profit and brand influence. As an American brand we hope Sears can get back into the groove but as they stand now they are the weakest link.

In what other ways do old brands stay new? Can you think of any others that have had a hard time capturing new generations of shoppers? Or others that have done well?

- Caroline Robinson, Savannah Valade, Elizabeth Harrington

Holiday Shopping at Risk from Government Shutdown

The current shutdown marks the first time in 17 years that the government has come to a halt, as both political parties remain at a standstill. With no sort of compromise in sight, a chain reaction with numerous consequences could follow. Currently, one of the main concerns is the increase in number of furloughed government workers who are grouped into two categories: essential and nonessential jobs. However, if the shutdown continues, retailers of public businesses may also take a hit creating potential conflict during the holiday season.

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As the upcoming holiday season quickly approaches, retailers are actively predicting whether or not the federal government shutdown will impact sales. According to The National Retail Federation, sales are expected to increase 3.9 percent for November and December. However, these calculations were based on past holiday sales that had no interference of a government shutdown. Depending on how long the shutdown lasts, retailers may have to alter their marketing strategies to maintain their predicted sales for the holidays.

As the government shutdown enters its second week, no substantial progress has been made to give retailers an accurate sense as to what will come in the next few months. Some sources believe that the shutdown could not be more perfectly timed because, “…the back-to-school rush has quieted, and despite the best efforts of some retailers, the holiday shopping season is still many weeks away from being in full swing.” On the other hand, “…some marketers may find that because consumers are spending less money, their holiday marketing may need to be tweaked at the last minute this year.”  These two outlooks lead us to wonder if a rippling effect will take place. NBC News has created possible scenarios that would occur if the shutdown lasted for over a month. One possible scenario on November 17th, according to The National Retail Federation, would indicate the “make-or-break” of the holiday shopping season. Consumer confidence in retailers will diminish as the shutdown continues, which will create devastating effects for retail stores and the overall economy.

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With Halloween quickly approaching, it will be interesting to see how the government shutdown could impact sales in terms of consumer behavior. Do you think that the shutdown will have an effect on holiday spending? How will retailers respond if the shutdown looms on in terms of marketing strategies?

- Aaron Love, Kara Zimmerman, Rachel Clay, Rebecca Hobbs

Back-to-School- Back to Taxes

As of this past August, there will be no more tax-free weekends for NC. That’s right, you read that correctly- North Carolina repealed the sales tax holiday in efforts to increase revenue for the state. What is known as the “tax-free weekend” started in 2002, and has become a prime time for families looking to save money to purchase school supplies, clothing, footwear, sports equipment and even some electronics with no sales tax. Retailers say that other than Black Friday, tax-free weekend is the busiest shopping time in NC. However, the repeal of the tax-free holiday was erased by the General Assembly as part of the state’s tax overhaul. (According to a WRAL news report, the state lost more than 13.5 million in tax revenue on the 2012 tax-free weekend.)

North Carolinians have only celebrated tax-free weekend for eleven years, but in that short duration, marketing in North Carolina has evolved to persuade consumers to take advantage of the tax break. Companies use flyers, commercials, promotional emails, web advertisements, and even add additional discounts on top of low prices in efforts to beat out competitors by drawing in the inevitable crowds of customers to their stores. Below is an example of a promotional email, sent out by Kohl’s, which gave customers a reminder of the tax-free weekend, along with an extra incentive to bring them to the store.

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Due to the slower summer season, businesses cling to these holidays to boost sales. That makes us wonder… how will the removal of tax-free weekend change future marketing for North Carolina businesses?

Advertisers and marketers know that people in North Carolina will not be as easily inclined to spend large amounts of money in such a short period of time with no extra tax break, so what are they going to do? We can only guess what will happen next year, but we predict companies will amp their creativity in the back to school season. Brands like American Eagle and Teen Vogue are paving the way and are praised for their back-to-school campaigns, which include special events such as fashion shows and a huge social media presence.

We know people are always going to have to buy back to school items, but now the main concern is are they going to buy as much without the incentive? Marketers are going to have to reinvent the way they communicate persuasive marketing to North Carolinians and deliver their new promotions in a way that our state will accept them. How do you think advertising tactics will change in NC now that there is no more tax-free shopping? Will you be spending as much money on back to school gear?

- Caroline Robinson, Meghan Carey, Morgan Jones, Savannah Valade

Have a Sexy Valentine’s Day, Gorgeous!

A week from today, one of the most commercialized and superficial holidays will occur: Valentine’s Day. For those of you who are one half of a couple, Valentine’s Day is all about making your significant other happy, whether it involves showering him/her with gifts, making dinner reservations, or planning exuberant and normally unnecessarily expensive dates.

The beginning of February marks the time when store fronts become clad with hearts, cupid cutouts, and pink and red streamers.  Around this same time, we begin to see an increasing number of men lurking around lingerie stores, especially Victoria’s Secret – and for good reason.  Victoria’s Secret has a dramatic increase in sales during the season of romance. With their sexy print ads in magazines, their silky almost-obscene commercials, and their free “Lacie Pantie” giveaway, what man in their right mind would avoid giving their girlfriend/wife the gift of sexiness?

In their 2012 Valentine’s Day campaign, Victoria’s Secret Angels clad in pink and red barely-there bras and panties have advertised to their customers that with the gift of anything from their line of lingerie, their Valentine’s Day celebrations will be fabulous. In their sneak peek to their photo shoot, the Angels prance around in their under garments, smiling, laughing, and selling the ideas of sex and playfulness. In interviews, the girls claim that any man could win their hearts on Valentine’s Day by picking out something from the Victoria’s Secret shelves. One even says that if a man chooses something that he likes, it will give plenty of hints to his significant other.

Not only does this campaign appeal to male shoppers, but it also appeals to women. The Victoria’s Secret Angels encourage their customers to feel sexy, and by offering specials, free panties, and coupons during this season, women will certainly be able to feel like Angels.

So whether you are shopping for a significant other or are planning on spoiling yourself with brand new sexy lingerie, Victoria’s Secret will certainly be the place to shop this romantic season.  And don’t forget to have a sexy Valentine’s Day, Gorgeous!

Love always, Christina Stevenson, Mollie Berthold, Dorothy Conley, & Laura Simmons