CES Keynoter Best Buy CEO Corie Barry: No Reverting Back to 2019 Behaviors

Consumers’ move to digital experiences and expanded store services is here to stay, said Best Buy CEO Corie Barry during her Jan. 12 keynote at the virtual CES.

“There isn’t a world where people revert back to their 2019 behaviors,” said Barry, who took over as chief executive of the retail chain last year.

She noted that her dad during the pandemic learned to order groceries for curbside pickup and is now “more comfortable with curbside in general.”

“It’s this comfort level more than anything else that will continue to push the envelope,” she said, adding “customer expectations will be raised in terms of what they can get done digitally.”

Best Buy instituted curbside pickup within the first three weeks of March as the COVID-19 outbreak began, she noted.

“People took immediately to more digital means [of finding products],” she said.

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Also as the pandemic hit, products such as computers, webcams, and computer speakers were in high demand, as were home theater and gaming products.

One surprise was “how much people needed to be entertained at home,” she said.

Online sales grew 174% in Q3, with 40% of items picked up in store or curbside.

Going forward, she noted, “the store is going to have a massive role in fulfillment” of online orders.

Still, the in-store experience is important, especially in helping customers with complex technical problems.

“Our stores play a really vital role in that,” Barry said.

While some companies were concerned about the effect of the pandemic on their bottom line, Barry said that at Best Buy the view was to the customers’ experience and how it set the chain up for the future.

“We knew if we took care of them today, in the moment, that would be really important for our brand in the long term,” she said.

‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,’ ‘Elf’ Top Favorite Holiday Films in Redbox Customer Survey

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation was the top classic and Elf the top post-2000 film in a Redbox customer survey on favorite holiday movies. The survey of 402 “engaged Redbox customers” took place Nov. 9-15.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a 1989 comedy film starring Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold, a man who loves Christmas but whose plans to give his family the best Christmas ever are repeatedly spoiled by everything from a trapped squirrel to a Scrooge-like boss. Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid and Juliette Lewis also star.

Elf, directed by Jon Favreau, is a 2003 comedy with Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human who was adopted and raised by Santa’s elves. When he discovers he’s not a real elf he travels to New York City to meet up with his real dad, a curmudgeonly book publisher.

Survey results were:

What is your favorite classic holiday movie?

  1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  2. It’s A Wonderful Life
  3. A Christmas Story
  4. Home Alone
  5. A Charlie Brown Christmas

 

What’s your favorite tradition around the holidays?

  1. Watch holiday movies
  2. Put up holiday decorations
  3. Cook holiday meals
  4. Listen to holiday music
  5. Buy presents

 

Which is your favorite holiday movie made since 2000?

  1. Elf
  2. The Polar Express
  3. Seuss’ The Grinch
  4. Love Actually
  5. Bad Santa

 

Redbox is running a “Merry Movie Nights” promotion, featuring holiday hits at the Box, including Last Christmas, Christmas Under the Stars, Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas; Christmas classics and family favorites On Demand, including The Polar Express, Home Alone, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and How the Grinch Stole Christmas; holiday romances On Demand, including The Holiday, Love Actually, Last Holiday, Serendipity, The Best Man Holiday and Just Friends; and “Not Really Christmas Movies,” including Die Hard, Edward Scissorhands, Gremlins, Why Him, Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone and Trading Places.

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Redbox also has holiday movie channels, holiday music and a yule log fireplace channel coming out soon for Free Live TV.

Adobe: Cyber Monday Spending Up 15% at Record $10.8 Billion

E-commerce sales on Cyber Monday (Nov. 30) set a new revenue record, topping $10.8 billion, which was up 15.1% from $9.39 billion during the previous-year period, according to new data from Adobe Analytics. The tally was below Adobe’s projected $12.7 billion estimate, which cites statistics from 80 of the top 100 online retailers.

Observers contend online spending on one-day sales events has been expanded by big-box stores throughout the year in response to Amazon Prime Days — tempering somewhat the impact of CyberMonday.

“Throughout the remainder of the holiday season, we expect to see record sales continue and curbside pickup to gain even more momentum as shoppers avoid crowds and potential shipping delays,” Taylor Schreiner, with Adobe Digital Insights, said in a video statement.

Regardless, consumers are increasingly using smartphones to conduct online purchases, with 40% of transactions on Black Friday and Thanksgiving conducted on portable devices. Adobe found that in-store and curbside pickup of online purchases increased 52% from last year.

ADI’s John Copeland said portable devices were used 60% of the time by people visiting and browsing retail websites buying assorted items such as toys and video games.

“It’s clear consumers have gotten a lot more comfortable shopping from their phones,” Copeland told CNBC, adding that top-selling items on Cyber Monday included limited availability of new game systems from Sony PlayStation and  Microsoft’s Xbox, as well as titles Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War and Spider-Man: Miles Morales.

“If you can get them, you should grab them,” Copeland said.

He said social media is increasingly driving consumer traffic to retail websites, underscoring the power of so-called “influencers” and click advertising.

“Thanksgiving weekend through Cyber Monday, social media has driven 1-in-10 visits to retail websites,” Copeland said. “That’s 17% greater than last year. Retailers are figuring out how to leverage all the digital channels.”

As COVID-19 Surges, Black Friday Crowds Don’t

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed this year’s Black Friday retail shopping frenzy, in which hordes of shoppers typically camp out overnight waiting for stores to open early on the morning after Thanksgiving — or, in recent years, start shopping right after they finish their turkey dinners.

Not this year.

With COVID-19 surging in what health experts are calling a third wave of the disease, none of the big retailers opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day — not even Walmart, which used to be open all day, or Target and Best Buy, which opened for business in the late afternoon or at midnight.

The big retailers also began offering their deep discounts several weeks before Black Friday, often targeting online shoppers with Web-only specials. And the year’s hottest gift item, Sony’s new PlayStation 5 video game console, saw gamers glued to the Internet to watch for alerts on Twitter and other social media channels about the next wave of consoles available at the various retailers, mostly for online purchase.

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“One thing that is happening, and has been happening for awhile, is the past couple of years, we’ve seen Black Friday deals moving more and more online,” Amir Neto, director of Lutgert College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University, told USA Today. “This year, there are more incentives to maintain or expand this trend.”

Adobe Analytics on Nov. 27 reported that online spending on Thanksgiving Day rose by nearly 22% to reach a new record of $5.1 billion, from $4.1 billion last year. The research firm said November and December online sales are expected to jump 33% this year, totaling $189 billion, including $10.3 billion on Black Friday.

Aside from the big retail players, Family Video, the last remaining national chain of dedicated video stores, sent out an email early Friday morning offering discounts of up to 75% on Warner Bros. DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and 4K Ultra HD titles, including Aquaman, The Dark Knight, Inception, Doctor Sleep, 12 Strong and Annabelle. “You will not find better Black Friday deals on Blu-rays, DVDs, and 4K Blu-rays from Warner Bros. anywhere else!” the Family Video email read, noting that the sale ends Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, with physical stores having offered discounts all week, reports on Black Friday itself suggest the early rush to physical retail stores is more of a trickle this year. A Target store in Costa Mesa, Calif., was practically empty shortly after 7 a.m. on Nov. 27. “It looks like any other day,” said one observer.

Target is running a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on books, movies and music. Blu-rays and DVDs could be had for as low as $4, $7 and $9. Signs were placed not only in the electronics area, but in some stores displays were put in the clothing section in the center of the store and at checkout. One customer in Mission Viejo, Calif., noted that the sales weren’t as prevalent as previous years.

At a Costa Mesa Best Buy, there were fewer than two dozen people waiting in a socially distant line, a far cry from prior years.

In Oceanside, Calif., a Walmart was a little busier, but the traditional DVD and Blu-ray Disc “dump bins,” featuring catalog movie titles priced as low as $2 to $5, were conspicuously absent. “It’s really slow,” a clerk said.

The movie aisle at an Oceanside, Calif. Walmart on Black Friday 2020, shortly before 9 a.m.

Chicago resident Maria Lopez, who often shops on Black Friday, said she was only visiting one store this year out of concerns of contracting the coronavirus. Lopez bought a 42-inch television from Best Buy.
“It’s so sad,” Lopez told the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve been out since 6 a.m. and there were no long lines. It’s definitely not the same like years prior.”

And yet the National Retail Federation earlier in the week  forecast that total holiday sales during November and December would be up by as much as 5.2% from the same period last year, generating $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion in revenue. The data, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, compares with a 4% increase in 2019, and an average holiday sales gain of 3.5% over the past five years.

“We know this holiday season will be unlike any other, and retailers have planned ahead by investing billions of dollars to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers,” Matthew Shay, CEO of the retail trade group, said in a statement. “Consumers have shown they are excited about the holidays and are willing to spend on gifts that lift the spirits of family and friends after such a challenging year.”

NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30% to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year.

“Given the pandemic, there is uncertainty about consumers’ willingness to spend, but with the economy improving most have the ability to spend,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

Redbox is participating in the Black Friday discounting frenzy with specials across all its platforms, physical as well as online. Through the weekend, the retailer is offering customers who rent two discs at its more than 40,000 kiosks 50 cents off, as well as “price drops” on digital rentals through Redbox On Demand. Redbox also is hosting a used movie sale at “select kiosks,” selling off previously viewed copies of films such as Trolls World Tour ($3.99), The Tax Collector ($5.99) and Justice League ($3.99).

On the streaming front, NBCUniversal as a Black Friday special offered 20% off access to the Peacock subscription streaming service, while Hulu launched a discounted $1.99 monthly promotion at midnight on Thanksgiving Day. The campaign gives new and returning subscribers 12-month access to the ad-supported Hulu option, which amounts to a $48 savings over the recently reduced $5.99 monthly fee (from $7.99). The ad-free subscription plan remains priced at $11.99 monthly.

Additional reporting by John Latchem and Stephanie Prange

Family Video Launches Promo to #SaveTheVideoStore

As it struggles during the pandemic, Family Video, the last major video store chain, is launching a promotional campaign called #SaveTheVideoStore to drum up consumer support.

With the help of studios and Hollywood talent such as Clerks director Kevin Smith, Family Video is bowing the campaign to celebrate physical media and generate nostalgia for the video store.

“Our plan with this campaign is to not hide from the stark reality that our business has been affected by streaming, COVID and just about everything else this year,” said senior brand manager Derek Dye. “We are hoping to pull at the heartstrings of physical media fans, video store fanatics and movie lovers as a whole to support us in this difficult time for our business.”

The campaign runs Nov. 9 to 22, boosted by a video of support for the chain from Smith, whose Clerks famously included scenes at a video store. But the major push is at the store level.

“We are going for a very grassroots initiative with our stores making signage, posters, painting the windows of our stores to get the word out,” Dye said. “We think that strategy along with the help of media outlets could help us immensely to drive traffic and awareness to our stores.”

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Battered by the pandemic and other hardships, the chain has shut down about 200 of its approximately 500 stores. It now has 300 stores in 17 states.

“It’s been a difficult year,” Dye said.

The nostalgic nature of the video store has not been lost on pop culture, even at a streaming service that is supplanting it, Netflix. Family Video has figured in previous seasons and will be featured prominently in the next season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”

Family Video T-shirt

The chain has been successfully selling Family Video retro-looking T-shirts to supplement income and capitalize on the nostalgia for video stores. Family Video has sold more than 700 of the T-shirts at $19.78 (1978 was the year the chain was established). In support of the new initiative, the chain is also selling a new  #SaveTheVideoStore shirt.

“Everybody has a fun memory of video stores,” Dye said.

He hopes the public will get the message that this institution is in trouble and needs fans to come in and support it.

The plea of the campaign, Dye said: “We need your help to save the video store.”

Amazon Prime Day Set for Oct. 13-14

Amazon Sept. 28 confirmed online scuttlebutt that it would hold its annual Prime Day e-commerce sales event Oct. 13 and 14. The news follows Amazon’s unveiling of a range of new and updated consumer electronics devices, including Luna online gaming system and controller, and globe-shaped Echo speakers.

Prime Day kicks off at midnight PT on Tuesday, Oct. 13, and runs through Wednesday, Oct. 14, for Prime members in the U.S., U.K, U.A.E, Spain, Singapore, Netherlands, Mexico, Luxembourg, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, China, Canada, Belgium, Austria, Australia, and — participating for the first time this year — Turkey and Brazil.

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Members can shop deals and products for the holiday season, including toys, TVs, electronics, home entertainment, fashion, beauty, kitchen, home, and Amazon Devices starting today and throughout the two-day epic deals event at amazon.com/primeday.

“In the midst of an unprecedented year, we’re committed to making this the most successful Prime Day ever for our small businesses and excited for Prime members worldwide to discover new ways to support local entrepreneurs and save big on everything they need and love,” Jeff Wilke, Amazon CEO Worldwide Consumer, said in a statement. “This year’s Prime Day is the perfect opportunity for Prime members to get their holiday shopping done early from the comfort of their homes — and to have more time to spend with their families and friends throughout the season.”

During last year’s Prime Day, Amazon said it sold more than 100,000 laptops, 200,000 televisions, 300,000 headphones, 350,000 luxury beauty products and more than 1 million toys — and in the process, generating more than $2 billion in sales for third-party retailers.

To further its support of small businesses during COVID-19 and beyond, Amazon is investing an additional $100 million in special Prime Day and holiday promotional programs, and beginning today through Oct. 12, Amazon will offer a $10 credit to use on Prime Day to members who spend $10 on items sold by select small businesses in Amazon’s store.

“Prime Day has become an indisputable shopping holiday, greatly benefiting online retailers that can attract consumers to their site through compelling email campaigns or offering value-add services like buy online, pick up in-store,” Jason Woosley, VP of Adobe’s commerce product division, told CNBC last year.

Report: Walmart to Bow $98 Yearly Subscription Service in July

Walmart in July will launch a $98 yearly subscription service to compete with Amazon Prime, according to a report from Recode.

The service will be called Walmart+.

In addition to same-day grocery delivery, fuel discounts and other offerings, the service is expected to include some sort of video entertainment content, though details are not clear, according to the report.

Walmart in April sold its video service Vudu.com to Fandango for an undisclosed amount, and reports citing internal sources had indicated that the big box retailer didn’t consider the VOD service a core business.

Amazon Prime subscriptions are $119 per year and, in addition to free shipping, offer access to streaming and transactional entertainment.

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Fed: May Retail Sales Jumped Record 17.7%

The U.S. economy got some positive news June 16 when the Treasury Department disclosed retail sales in May increased a record 17.7% from the prior month, compared with a 14.7% month-to-month decline in April and an 8.3% drop in March.

While it was the largest increase in monthly retail sales ever, sales are still down 8% from February and 6.1% from May 2019.

The news saw the Dow rally by 800 points and President Trump send out a Tweet praising the stock market and jobs growth.

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With economic shutdowns easing, consumers armed with $1,200 stimulus money (or enhanced unemployment benefits) are slowly heading back to stores and restaurants with their masks.

The food and beverage business saw a 29.1% spike in May revenue. Clothing and accessories sales jumped 188.8%, while media (books, entertainment), hobby and sporting goods increased 88.2%.

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“I think a lot of it is lockdown fatigue,” Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global, told The New York Times. “I would caution not to be fooled by this large [retail] gain. We still have a long way to go in repairing the economy.”

Walmart to Discontinue Jet.com; Q1 Revenue Up 8.6%

Walmart, the world’s biggest brick-and-mortar retailer and the largest seller of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, on May 19 reported it would discontinue Jet.com, which it acquired four years ago to assist in its effort to combat online goliath Amazon.

The announcement came in its financial report for the first quarter ended May 1, in which revenue totaled $134.6 billion, up 8.6% from the comparable period in 2019, in part due to “unprecedented demand” during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Walmart. Since Walmart carries groceries, the chain was one of only a few retailers, mostly grocers and pharmacies, allowed to remain open after governors in most states closed all but “essential” businesses.

Operating income grew 5.6% to $5.2 billion. Walmart U.S. comp sales increased 10%, led by strength in food, consumables, health and wellness, and some general merchandise categories. Walmart U.S. eCommerce sales grew 74% with strong results for grocery pickup and delivery services, walmart.com, and marketplace, according to the company.

“More than ever, the news this quarter is our amazing associates. They are rising to the challenge to serve our customers and our communities. I’m proud of how they’re adapting and performing. Our omnichannel strategy, enabling customers to shop in seamless, flexible ways, is built for serving the needs of customers during this crisis and in the future,” president and CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement.

The chain is nixing Jet.com, which it acquired in 2016 for $3 billion, because the Walmart.com brand is strong, it reported.

“Due to continued strength of the Walmart.com brand, the company will discontinue Jet.com,” read the Walmart press release. “The acquisition of Jet.com nearly four years ago was critical to accelerating our omni strategy.”

On an afternoon earnings call with analysts May 19, McMillon elaborated, “While the  [Jet.com] brand name may still be used in the future, our resources, people and financials have been dominated by the Walmart brand because it has so much traction. We’re seeing the Walmart brand resonate regardless of income, geography or age. The Jet acquisition was critical to jumpstarting the progress we’ve made the last few years. Not only have we picked up traction with pickup and delivery, but our Walmart.com non-food e-commerce growth accelerated after the arrival of Marc and the Jet team.”

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The news comes on the heels of Walmart shedding online movie site Vudu. Last month, Comcast-owned movie ticket and transactional VOD service Fandango announced the acquisition of Vudu.com from Walmart for an undisclosed amount. Vudu, which Walmart acquired 10 years ago for $100 million, will continue backend support for Walmart’s online digital movie business, while existing Vudu subscribers will still have access to content stored in the cloud.

On an earnings call on the afternoon of May 19, McMillon noted that since the pandemic-triggered quarantine began in the middle of March, “we’ve hired more than 235,000 associates in the United States. The majority are on a temporary basis to help relieve some of the burden faced by our associates in stores and supply chain facilities, as well as to help provide opportunities for people who’ve been displaced from their previous jobs.”

He noted that as the pandemic spread, “we saw the mix of sales ship heavily towards food and consumables. … We experienced unprecedented demand in categories like paper goods, surface cleaners and grocery staples. For many of these items we were selling in two or three hours what we normally sell in two or three days.”

As the quarter progressed, McMillon added, “we saw a second phase related to entertaining and educating at home, puzzles and video games took off. Parents became teachers. Adult bicycles started selling out as parents started to join the kids. An overlapping trend then started emerging related to DIY and home related activities. Think games, home office, exercise equipment and alike. It was also clear a lot of people were taking a do-it-yourself approach as they bought items like bandanas and sewing machines to make masks. We can see customers looking to improve their indoor and outdoor living spaces, our home categories in stores and online took off.

“Toward the end of the quarter another phase emerged, COVID relief spending as it was heavily influenced by stimulus dollars leading to sales increases in categories such as apparel, televisions, video games, sporting goods and toys.”

Comcast Expanding Retail Footprint

Comcast Jan. 27 said it plans to open six new Xfinity branded stores in the St. Paul, Minn., area by the end of 2020. The nearly $1.5 million investment will place stores in Coon Rapids, Brooklyn Center, Maple Grove, Blaine, Vadnais Heights and West St. Paul.

The strategy is aimed at connecting customers at the retail level with a cable TV operator that increasingly is focused on branded over-the-top video and high-speed Internet service — including xFi, Xfinity Mobile, Peacock and Flex.

“These stores are designed to give customers an awesome experience,” J.D. Keller, regional SVP of the Comcast Twin Cities Region, said in a statement. “They are all about providing the best possible service to our customers, as well as giving all consumers a chance to explore our Xfinity products and services firsthand and check out our latest technology in an interactive environment.”

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Comcast recently opened the Coon Rapids and Brooklyn Center Xfinity Stores with the remaining locations scheduled to open later in the year.

The stores range in size from 1,800 to 2,200 square feet and will be staffed by technology specialists who can help customers get the most value from their products, including personalization, managing and controlling home WiFi experience with Xfinity xFi, amopng other features.

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Retail customers can also upgrade or swap equipment, ask questions about their Xfinity service or pay a bill. Comcast has built or redesigned more than 400 new stores since 2015.