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Retail Trends

Belk and GameStop CEOs look at 2012

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STORES editors asked retail chief executives to look inside their crystal balls and share their feelings about what’s to come in the next 12 months. Here are the views of CEOs operating two very different companies. We are planning on slow, steady growth. We may see some ups and downs, but the trend will be positive. I expect the landscape to be about the same as what we have experienced over the last 12 months. I do believe the outlook is more positive than has been reported by the media. I think we will see an even greater focus on the customer. Technology is putting her more in control of her shopping experience; she can compare brands and prices more easily, and she can access reviews and get her friends’ input before purchasing. Technology is moving quickly and many retailers are scrambling to catch up. At Belk, we are making IT investments now that will position us to take better care of our customers. — Tim Belk, chairman and CEO, Belk

While it’s not clear consumer buying power will increase drastically in 2012, it is apparent people want to buy and are looking for value. Therefore, retailers will need broad product offerings that appeal to wide-ranging budgets. As an example, we recently broadened our trade-in program to accept the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Our trade-in program remains very successful and provides yet another form of in-store currency for our customers.

Mobile and social commerce have become more mainstream as consumers adopt new ways to buy. In addition to consumers purchasing via digital channels, GameStop is seeing more purchases of digital items, such as game add-ons in the form of downloadable content (DLC) in bricks-and-mortar retail stores. It’s clear the consumer is evolving and we are continuing to evolve with them.

We are hopeful the U.S. will see a decrease in unemployment in 2012 that will help spur retail sales growth, but until the economy rebounds, we expect consumers will continue looking for ways to stretch their dollar. It will be important for retailers to deliver value without eroding the experience.

— J. Paul Raines, CEO, GameStop