Competition increases for consumer spending

November 21, 2012 8:24:37 PM PST
With more people feeling confident about their finances, the Consumer Federation of America predicted holiday spending would increase by 3.5 - 4 percent. That is certainly welcome news to retailers as they gear up for what could be a life or death struggle for some of them during the holidays.

Best Buy will be put to the test this holiday season. Sales at its brick and mortar stores last quarter fell 4.3 percent, while its online sales went up 10 percent.

The shift is happening throughout the retail sector. Online sales so far this month have hit just over $10 billion. That's up 16 percent compared to last year. Online sites are expected to ring up $43.4 billion by the end of the holidays, up 17 percent over last year.

However, there is a segment of shoppers brick and mortar retailers know they can target, even if they don't get the lowest price.

"It's worth it to be able to know what I'm actually getting and hold the object and make sure that it does what I think it's going to do," said Menlo Park resident Jacqueline Wender. When asked if it made a difference to her when you can talk to a salesperson, she said, "Very much so. Yes, it does."

The executive director of the Retail Management Institute at Santa Clara University, Prof. Dale Achabal, Ph.D. , says traditional retailers need to find new ways to cater to that shopper.

"Those that have been able to change, to have a vision to stay ahead of the pack have succeeded, and those who haven't, really have found themselves in a very difficult situation," said Achabal.

The retail graveyard is filled with casualties, including Circuit City and The Good Guys.

Best Buy says it's meeting the challenge by offering better trained associates who specialize in the products they sell.

"Each associate goes through specific training outside the store for four days, and after that, there's continuous training at Best Buy. All associates have to get certified in certain areas, so that we do have a lot of experts in the store," said Best Buy store general manager Rich Scharaga.

Best Buy and other retails say now that Amazon is collecting the California sales tax, this is the first time that they're on an even playing field with a major online competitor. It appears all retailers are going to be very aggressive about doing price matching to snag a lot of consumer business.


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