What economists and marketers are learning from newly accessible consumer data … Around the world, billions of sales transactions every month, down to a can of Coca-Cola from a local store, are recorded in some way by Nielsen, the measurement and information firm that has been gathering data from retailers and consumers for 90 years. For most of its history, Nielsen shared those data primarily with its retail customers and manufacturing customers under strict agreements that protected customer confidentiality. Academic researchers gained access to some data by negotiating directly and often at length with Nielsen, or by partnering with a corporation and promising the data and results would be for internal use only. … Now Nielsen is sharing three datasets through Booth, with a staggering amount of information. One dataset covers purchases by 40,000–60,000 households in the United States. Another contains sales results from 35,000 stores—grocery stores, drugstores, discount chains, and similar outlets—for the years 2006 through 2011. Those records span up to 3 million bar codes, and the data represent about 33% of the volume at mass merchandisers and about 55% of US retail volume from grocery stores and drugstores. … The information now available is a gold mine for researchers, marketers primarily, but also economists who see the potential to explore longstanding questions about consumer behavior.
The American mall, meanwhile, is supposed to be dying. Many malls are in fact already dead, their gutted carcasses lying dormant on the sides of highways, attracting mild fascination by way of eerie photography and resigned nostalgia. ... Last year, the New York Times put the number of malls suffering vacancies of 10 to 40 percent — an indicator that a mall is not long for this world — at 15 percent. ... In its US Mall Outlook Report from January, real estate research firm Green Street Advisors evaluated mall performance based on sales productivity, assigning grades of A, A+, and A++ to the 198 most profitable shopping centers in the country. South Coast Plaza's self-reported sales volume of $800 per square foot places it smack between A+ and A++, the latter defined by Green Street's report as a mall that boasts "luxury inline and anchor tenants, strong demographics, best-in-sales productivity, retailer ‘waiting list' for space, and strong tourist draw." There are currently 37 A++ malls and 67 A+ malls by Green Street's tally. Together these upmarket meccas account for 44 percent of all mall value, despite only representing about 10 percent of the entire American mall pie. ... The move towards investing in restaurants that are higher quality and unique to the market began percolating about a decade ago, says Marsh. This dovetailed with the emergence of so-called foodie culture, which rendered restaurants of all kinds bona fide destinations, e-commerce-proof businesses that are only bolstered by social media. In the spirit of "experiential living," why eat for sustenance when you can eat for fun and/or for Snapchat?
Nordstrom is beefing up its department store portfolio at a time when we are constantly being told the department store is dying. This summer, Macy's announced it was closing 15 percent of its American stores after six straight quarters of declining sales. Since 2014, J.C. Penney has closed 80 locations; Sears closed nearly 300. According to the US Department of Commerce, department store sales have declined 30 percent from $87.46 billion in 2005 to $60.65 billion in 2015. ... Department stores face a grim future, and it gets even gloomier when Amazon, which is set to outpace them in apparel sales, is factored into the equation. Yet Nordstrom is envisioning eight stores in Canada and three more new stores in the US by 2019, including a flagship in New York City. ... This focus on shoppers starts first and foremost with its generous return policy — or generous lack thereof. ... In addition to transparent customer relations, Nordstrom stocks an impressive mix of higher- and lower-end brands, without managing to alienate anyone. ... The changes are small and incremental, and yet they complete a larger picture for the Seattle-based brand. They don't just give the store a contemporary, boutique-y feel — they're clear indicators that Nordstrom has put a whole lot of thought into what a department store should look like in 2016 and beyond.
Hundreds of shopping centers across the U.S. are facing obsolescence, abandoned by shoppers who are going online or getting choosier about where they shop. ... in its combination of novelty, technology, and customer pampering, Roosevelt Field embodies the strategy that has helped its owner, Simon Property Group, navigate retail’s crisis to stay on top of the mall world. ... Its U.S. portfolio includes 108 malls, most of them high-grossers like Roosevelt Field, and 72 discount outlet centers. ... including the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, King of Prussia outside Philadelphia, and the huge high-end New York outlet mall Woodbury Common ... The key to that success: constantly adapting to figure out what sells, at a time when many of the businesses that fill its malls—especially department stores and apparel retailers—aren’t selling. ... Simon dominates the so-called A-malls, those with the highest sales per square foot. To win in that category, Simon has been diligent about staying ahead of trends and modernizing its centers, and quick to replace struggling brands with those on the upswing. ... acknowledge the risk posed by the wave of store closings. ... Analysts generally believe America is “overmalled” to begin with: There are 2,353 square feet of space of shopping centers in the U.S. for every 100 Americans, compared with 1,636 in Canada and 458 in Britain ... From the 1960s through the 2000s, developers built hundreds of malls per decade. But since 2010, only nine new ones have been built ... the typical anchor store pays around $4 per square foot in annual rent; the average non-anchor tenant paid $42.22 per square foot a year as of the third quarter of 2016