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Retailers Enjoy A Strong Start To 2017
The US retail market is starting the new year off on the right foot, according to the Census Bureau. A new report published yesterday showed retail sales hitting $471 billion in January. This marks a 0.4% increase from December and a whopping 5.6% increase compared to January 2016. With this strong start to the year, economists are predicting continued growth throughout the first quarter—a welcome sign for retailers throughout the country as consumer confidence is finally translating into higher spending.
The January sales numbers came as a surprise to many economists, who had forecasted much more conservative growth. But even department stores enjoyed a positive start to the year, with sales surging 1.2% in January—their biggest increase in over a year. Interestingly, e-commerce retail sales remained the same since December.
Additionally, the report also included a revision to December’s retail sales number. The Bureau stated that the retail industry logged a 1% gain during the last month of 2016, which is significantly higher than the initial reports of a 0.6% increase.
Much of this retail success can be attributed to the labor market, experts say. With strong jobs numbers and rising wages, the basic conditions for household spending has improved. As the job market continues to improve, consumer spending is expected to spark even greater economic growth through 2017. After a challenging 2016, the country’s retail future is looking bright.
Serta Simmons Bedding Makes A Major Investment
Serta Simmons Bedding is making a major commitment to supporting regional and independent retailers in 2017. The company announced that it will make a $100+ million, multi-year investment to expand its manufacturing capabilities and advertising efforts.
As part of this new multi-million investment, SBB will open four new manufacturing facilities across the country—adding to its existing network of more than 30 plants nationwide. The expansion will enhance the company’s manufacturing capacity in some of the most high-demand areas, with the new factories strategically located in Windsor Locks, Connecticut; Seattle, Washington; Houston, Texas; and Moreno Valley, California.
In addition to expanding its manufacturing network, SBB has also launched a new cooperative marketing strategy designed to help local retailers develop more aggressive advertising efforts that drive greater consumer awareness. As part of the new Advantage Marketing Program, the company will match the advertising investments of its regional and independent retailer partners dollar-for-dollar. Building on Serta and Beautyrest’s national advertising campaigns, this new program allows smaller retailers to leverage the size and scale of the company’s most-recognizable brands to enhance their overall marketing efforts.
This news follows the launch of new collection updates and introductions from both Serta and Simmons at the Winter Las Vegas Market. You can learn more about Serta’s updated Perfect Sleeper line, Simmons’ new Beautyrest Silver and BeautySleep collections in the winter issue of Sleep Retailer.
Spotlight: Retail Sales Resolutions
Retail businesses certainly witnessed more than their fair share of opportunities and challenges this past year, as consumer behaviors continue to change. Kevin Cundiff, VP of Retail for Fortegra, offers valuable resolutions for back office retail salespeople looking to make sure their businesses are set up for success in 2017.
Know your sales team. Employees on the sales floor are the ones with the most exposure to customers. Keeping them happy means keeping the customers happy. That, in turn, can mean more profit for the company. Even taking 30 minutes out of your day to grab a cup of coffee with one of your employees could have a major effect on the work environment.
Provide the right resources. Resources can mean many different things to different people, Cundiff explains. Whether offering new training opportunities or equipping them with the most cutting-edge technology, it’s important to provide your employees with the chance to grow professionally.
Consider new ways to gain revenue. When it comes to boosting sales, Cundiff suggests thinking outside the box this year. Rather than simply trying to sell more beds, you could try partnering with similar retailers to cross-sell customers. Have you invested in performance bedding? Maybe the gym across the street has some members who would be interested in updating their sleep systems!
Revamp your brand’s omnichannel presence. Social media and digital marketing have become a must for businesses today. Take some time this month to make a plan for your online strategy moving forward: maybe schedule posts promoting upcoming sales or simply come up with a new strategy for responding to customer service questions.
Square Launches New iPad App Aimed At Retailers
Aiming to offer more comprehensive support to medium-sized businesses, the commerce company Square has launched the new Square for Retail package. While the original Square app was primarily designed for small businesses, the new Square Retail app has been optimized for retailer needs—offering point-of-sale functionality, a customer database, and inventory and employee management all within one program.
The new Square for Retail package is comprised of an iOS Point-of-Sale app and a central dashboard that is accessible online. With the POS app, retailers can use an iPad to check-out their customers. In addition to offering a new search interface and barcode scanning functionality, the new app also allows employees to easily apply discounts and modify the total. The customer database allows retailers to track their sales and create “profiles” based on each customer’s buying habits, making it easier to personalize their shopping experiences in the future. The service’s inventory management system updates in real time as each sale is made, with up-to-date information from multiple locations accessible via the online dashboard. Taking the service one step further, Square has also integrated employee management tools into the package as well, including individual staff member accounts and a timecard system.
By housing a variety of functions and databases in one easy-to-access program, Square for Retailer is one helpful way to streamline your business operations. Retailers can use the service from an iPad via the app and a Mac desktop computer via the dashboard; though the company also sells additional hardware for other in-store transaction types. Square for Retailer will cost $60 per month, per register—with an additional 2.75% fee for each credit and debit card-based transaction.
How Sleep Prepares Your Brain For Each New Day
A new study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison is shedding more light on the importance of sleep on proper brain function. By tuning out the external world for a few hours, the brain has the chance to take stock of all the information it has stored during the day and prune back the less significant details. This process, the researchers say, is essential to make room for new information.
To understand the importance of this new study, we must first start with some basic facts about how the brain works. As we learn, connections between the neurons in our brain grow wider and stronger to accommodate the flow of information. These connections are called “synapses” and they allow the neurons to send signals to one another more quickly and efficiently. It is within these connecting points that we store memories. In simply going about our day, these synapses are growing stronger and more numerous.
While it seems like it would be beneficial to have more of these synapses in our brain, there is actually such a thing as too much of a good thing. Because it takes energy to maintain these connections, the brain would quickly become overloaded if the synapses were strengthened indefinitely. Like a surge protector with too many appliances plugged in or a web browser with too many tabs open, our brains must regularly “reset” these connections to avoid burning out.
In order to do this, the neurons go through a process known as “synaptic homeostasis” that weakens the synapses en masse. Dr. Chiara Cirelli, the co-author of the study, first argued that this downscaling happens when we sleep in 2003. Since then, she and Dr. Guilio Tononi have been studying this process in mice for nearly four years. The team recently presented their findings in the journal Science, concluding that these synapses do in fact shrink by nearly 20 percent during sleep.
Interestingly, this process only occurred in roughly 80 percent of the synapses—with the largest connections left fully intact. Cirelli speculated that these larger synapses are related to more important memories stored in the brain, leading them to believe that this process of weakening is focused on the more irrelevant details we take in every day. By paring down the less significant memories, our brain prepares itself to receive more input the next day—clearing room for new information.
Why can’t the brain do this during the day, though? When we’re awake, the brain is easily distracted by what’s going on around us. It’s constantly taking in new information. By tuning out external stimuli, we slow down the flow of information-traffic to our brain—giving it some quiet time to sort through all the existing synapses.
This is all the more reason to create the best sleep environment possible. Old or ill-fitting bedding products can have negative effects on the the quality and duration of sleep—which makes it more difficult for the brain to focus on this process. In order to mentally perform your best during the day, you want to make sure your brain has enough time to successfully reset while you sleep.
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