This past January, as I've done for the past five years or so, I trekked into New York City's Jacob Javits Convention Center for the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Big Show. I was met, as I was in past years as well, by retailers from around the world. I spent time at this year's conference attending presentations and press conferences; meeting and interviewing retail industry execs in the press room; and walking the vast exhibit hall floors trying to find the "next big things" in retail technology. Here are a few of my takeaways
Revenue growth may have slowed last year at Apple's retail stores, but the division remains one of the world's strongest and a key strategic focus of the tech giant's future. With revenue exceeding $20 billion for the fiscal year ended Sept. 28, Apple's brick-and-mortar unit exceeded the total annual revenue at big-name retailers such as Nordstrom, Gap and AutoNation. The stores are practically hallowed ground for entrepreneurs who supply accoutrements for Apple's "iOSphere." They say the cache and cash flow at Apple's retail outlets combine to make it a unique and unrivaled platform for introducing their products.
Apple earlier today launched its annual Black Friday sale, but rather than directly discount hardware, it's done for years, it offered gift cards of up to $150 with a purchase. And has become habitual, some resellers either slashed prices directly or bundled gift cards or larger amounts than Apple.
Apple's physical retail stores are a thing of beauty, fusing wood, metal and glass into a rather sleek setup that feels clean and futuristic, a bit like the brand's products. While we've seen many Apple retail stores being erected in the past all over the world, not many actually get to see what goes on behind closed doors, like how everything is set up, when products are delivered, and how Apple staff are prepped for the influx of customers walking in to check out and play around with the shiny new products.
We're nearly a year into Ron Johnson's tenure as CEO of J.C. Penney, and the results aren't encouraging. The retailer's share price has fallen more than 10 percent under the former Apple and Target executive, and now, a new report from BIGinsight suggests that female shoppers are fleeing the retailer in droves.
The iPad, iPhone, iPod, Mac and plenty of other Apple products are no doubt great devices, but the greatest invention of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs may well have been the Apple retail store. The way they're designed, organized and run has played a part in elevating the status of gadgets themselves.
New sales data from brick-and-mortar retail outlets reveals that Apple Stores see some 17 times more sales than the national average and lead all U.S. retail chains in sales per square foot. Market analytics firm Asymco, drawing from raw data provided by RetailSails, notes that Apple Stores worldwide smashed the average sales numbers posted by other U.S. chains, raking in $5,626 per square foot in the four quarters ending in August 2011. Apple's performance nearly doubled that of first runner up Tiffany & Co. and was seven times more efficient than the median of the top 20 retailers.
Not only does the iPad dominate the tablet market, but a new study claims that 90 percent of all mobile revenue last month was generated from Apple's popular device. Personalization vendor RichRelevance studied 75 retail sites and found that 68 percent of mobile shoppers who accessed retail websites used iPads to do so. iPad users were more likely to buy something when they got there, too. Conversion rates with the iPad were 1.5 percent, nearly triple the 0.57 percent rate for other mobile devices. Shoppers who used iPads averaged $52.66 per item, while other mobile users spent $23.80.
Apple Inc. and publishers Penguin and Macmillan have decided to fight U.S. government charges that they conspired to fix the prices of e-books, even as three other publishers agreed to a settlement aimed at lowering prices for consumers. The Justice Department accused Apple of colluding with five publishers as the Silicon Valley giant was launching its iPad in early 2010 and was seeking to break up Amazon's low-cost dominance in the digital book market.