Why does a consumer visit a particular store? Price, selection and convenience were among the answers researchers found. America's Research Group, Charleston, SC, studied what bothered consumers the most at 19 different types of stores. Price was the main complaint at stores specializing in home accessories, TVs/appliances/computers, furniture, music and auto parts. Other complaints included long checkout, lack of sales help and lack of selection.
WEB ACCOUNTS FOR $20 BILLION IN 1Q SALES
Online spending reached $7 billion in the first quarter of this year, and an additional $14 billion was spent by telephone or in stores by customers after browsing the Internet. USA Today reports the number of consumers buying online is now almost 27 million compared to 23 million a year ago.
In the battle between online and brick-and-mortar retailers, home delivery doesn't seem to be the most important factor. JC Penney Co. reports the catalog desks at its 1,140 department stores are popular pickup sites for orders taken online or by telephone.
HOMEOWNERSHIP REACHES RECORD
More than 70 million American families now own their homes. The homeownership rate is 67.1 percent overall with 51 percent for urban areas and 74 percent for suburbanites.
The recent tightening of credit by the Federal Reserve is slowing home sales in the prefab market, which fell 20 percent since the start of the year. Prefabs always feel a credit crunch first because their buyers are lower income and their mortgage rates are 12 to 14 percent compared with 8.8 percent on conventional homes. The average price of a prefab home is $41,300, and a conventional new one is $202,400. The credit crunch is expected to depress single-family home starts by six percent this year and another seven percent next year.
MORE SPENT ON FURNISHINGS THAN CLOTHES
For the second year in a row, Americans have spent more on home furnishings, $342 billion, than on apparel, $318 billion. And the trend is expected to intensify. Increased house sales are boosting home furnishings, while apparel revenue suffers from the trend to casual dress.
PERKS RISE AS UNEMPLOYMENT FALLS
An unemployment rate of 3.9 percent, the lowest peacetime figure since 1957, has created a hiring frenzy pumped up by on-the-job perks and higher wages. Family-friendly benefits are on the rise such as flexible scheduling, job sharing and compressed workweeks. Employers continue to juggle benefits, scrapping the least-popular wellness programs such as CPR, quit-smoking classes, subsidized cafeterias and dry-cleaning services.
IT'S NOT THE SOME OLD ATM ANYMORE
Increasingly there is a trend to mix entertainment with the sale or service of just about anything. Now, cash-dispensing ATM machines are joining the fun. Wells Fargo banks in California have unwrapped new Cash Plus ATM machines that treat customers to news headlines, advertisements and even movie trailers while they do their banking. The only trouble is the ATM lines may get longer as customers linger to get all the news.
SMALL BUSINESS MOST WANTED LIST
During Small Business Week (May 21 to 27) the top six most wanted list got special emphasis. The National Federation of Independent Business called for government action on six programs or policies favoring small businesses. The top concerns include:
• affordable health insurance
• small business tax cuts
• review of ergonomics regulations
• limits to punitive damage liability for small businesses.