Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Christmas Shopping Frenzy

While confidence about the Christmas shopping season has fallen among many Australian retailers, for online consumers, Monday was the busiest online shopping day of the year. The orders rained in during the hour following lunch; as the peak time to find gifts via a computer screen, according to new eBay research.

I’ve been putting off my Christmas shopping this year, not because I’m selfish, no. It’s because this time of year is always the most chaotic; with work deadlines, a Masters of Marketing Consulting Project, a burgeoning social calendar combined with the beckoning sun’s call to go to the beach all day instead of navigating through the hoards to find the perfect gift… to be honest I just haven’t had time. Well not time for that anyway.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Well, apparently we’re not the only ones.

Bricks and mortar retailers are less than optimistic.

Each year, Deloitte conducts the Deloitte Retailers Christmas Survey. Released on Sunday, the results showed that 70 percent of Australian retailers expected Christmas sales to beat 2016's result, which was a six per cent drop from last year. This is yet another body blow for the nation's struggling retailers after a series of disappointing sales figures whereby the growing cost of living keeps consumers' wallets shut.

The annual Deloitte's head of retail David White said it was a worrying result for the nation's embattled retail sector.

"A number of retailers haven't survived the year and there is a concern amongst respondents that weakness may continue throughout Christmas 2017," White said.

"With so many new and expanding competitors in the market combined with price deflation and rising electricity costs, it will be a challenge for retailers in the apparel, footwear and department store sectors to maintain margins over Christmas in the face of these headwinds.

Image source: Huffington Post AU. CHARLES PLATIAU / REUTERS. Shoppers are getting frugal this Christmas.

But the online retail landscape is thriving.

Russell Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Australian Retailers Association, said research showed online purchases would jump 3.96 per cent this Christmas, with the majority being made this week. Along the same lines as Ebay’s research, the Australian Retailers Association has also forecast that the majority of their gifts bought this season will be bought online.

It may be that retailers are less than optimistic about the holiday shopping season, however, Australian shoppers are expected to spend more than $50 billion over the Christmas period, starting on November 15, according to the ARA and Roy Morgan Research.

This year, online shopping grew 8.3 percent, according to the National Australia Bank, with consumers spending $23.65 billion in internet stores over the year to October, representing 7.6 per cent of spending in bricks and mortar stores.

More than 2.7 million Australians were expected to visit Ebay on Monday. According to eBay Australia’s Chief Financial Officer, Gavin Dennis, the peak shopping period had been pushed one week later this year due to Australians postponing their Christmas shopping.

“This year we’ve seen the busiest online shopping day pushed out to the second week of December. Gift shoppers are becoming more confident they can order online later, and 70 per cent of our shoppers are now coming from mobile devices so you don’t necessarily need to be at home, on the laptop, shopping, you can be wherever the inspiration grabs you.” 

Working hard, or hardly working?
Who says you need to go shopping to buy presents? With the convenience of not having to leave your desk, many Aussies are now becoming more confident that they can get away with buying gifts while on the job. EBay predicted that computer users would purchase the greatest number of items between 1pm and 2pm on Monday, while they were still at work.

“There has been a change in peak desktop purchasing period,” Mr Dennis said.

“Historically it tended to be in the evenings. Now we’re seeing shopper behaviour change and that desktop sales are peaking around lunch time. On Monday, everyone is going to be busy on their lunch break, shopping online.”

Interestingly, buying gifts has now gone mobile; with purchases made with a smartphone now outnumbering eBay purchases on a computer. For shoppers multi-tasking in front of the television before bedtime, the peak times being between 9pm and 9.15pm.

So, if you, like me, have been stalling your Christmas shopping then don’t forget that there other options. You could give the gift of your ‘presence’, but that’s kind of stingy. Don’t be a scrooge, try shopping online instead. Just don’t leave it too late or your gifts mightn’t arrive on time and then you might have to just brave the crowds after all.

Alyce Brierley Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School.

Monday, 4 December 2017

The Meghan Effect

Move over Kate Middleton. There’s a new royal fashion icon on the block. Since the announcement of Prince Harry’s engagement to American actress, Meghan Markle, fans and royalists have become obsessed with the soon-to-be royal’s wardrobe. 

Prince Harry, who is currently fifth in line to the throne, will marry Meghan next spring, making her a duchess. Meghan and Harry had their first public engagement in Nottingham in Friday. The couple appeared to have coordinated their outfits wearing navy and sand, greeting well-wishers as they moved along the crowd. Meghan’s £455 Scottish-designed Strathberry tote sold out instantly.

The visit sought to raise awareness of HIV/Aids and efforts to tackle youth crime but it also presented the opportunity for Harry to show off his fiancé.  For the lucky brands that Markle was wearing it was the opportunity to become known as the royal brands of choice. Not to mention send their sales through the roof.

The Halo Effect of Meghan Markle.

Master of Marketing students at the University of Sydney’s Business School learnt about the effects of cognitive biases. In marketing, the term halo effect is used to explain customer bias toward certain products because of favourable experiences with other products made by the same company. In the case of Markle, brands can leverage her fame, beauty and the royal engagement to their advantage.

A specific type of confirmation bias, the halo effect has the ability to influence feelings and thoughts about that entity's character or properties. Previously, the term was originally coined when referring to people, however, its use has now been expanded to the area of brand marketing.

Pretty much anything Markle wears enters the domain of sell-out success. 

Founded four years ago by husband and wife team Guy and Leeanne Hundleby, Strathberry is based in Edinburgh. With no background in fashion, the Hundlebys quit their jobs to create Strathberry after realising Scotland was lacking a standout international, luxury leather goods brand. Mrs Hundleby worker in the financial sector and her husband ran a production company and now thanks to Markle, it looks as though their brand is on-track to become a worldwide sensation.

Earlier that week,  Markle announced her engagement to the prince wearing a Line belted coat, a P.A.R.O.S.H. green dress, Aquazzura heels and Birks 18-karat gold earrings. Line has worked with Meghan’s stylist Jessica Mulroney to help Markle with her style choices in recent years. The white $750 Line coat sold out within minutes. According to president and cofounder John Muscat, the style has also been renamed the “Meghan” in honour of the incoming royal. 

Image Source: Open News Windows. Sales increase for Line thanks to the Halo Effect of Meghan Markle.

Muscat was surprised by Meghan’s choice to wear the coat for the announcement. “I don’t know how you’re supposed to react to that. I was surprised that she chose to wear our coat for such an incredible announcement. I was really honoured and touched that she did that. She’s bringing a little bit of Canada with her to London,” Muscat said. “She particularly loves this coat. She has it in every colour so that makes a little sense. She wears it like a second skin.”

Following the aftermath of Monday’s announcement, Birks saw a 50 percent increase in website traffic by early Monday afternoon, said Birks brand chief marketing officer and vice president Eva Hartling. “We’ve also had a lot of inquiries from stores mentioning that clients either called or walked in asking to see the $780 18K gold Opal earrings from the ‘Les Plaisirs’ collection,” she said.

Image Source: The Daily Mail UK. Markle with Prince Harry on their first outing since the engagement announcement.

Megan Markle’s fashion choices are a boon for luxury brands wishing to be associated with the royal. And while many have noticed that she leans heavily towards Canadian brands, her taste is not exclusive. Markle is in a position to buttress designers and retailers whom she wishes to help. Whether it’s through her own exclusive fashion blog or by designing her own fashion lines for womenswear retailer Reitmans, Markle is leaving her mark on the fashion world.

Alyce Brierley
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School.