Good News for Retailers: Sales on the Up and Up

Potential is in Ecommerce and Social Media Marketing

According some reports issued over the past few days, department stores and electronics sales in March showed modest gains while luxury and, you guessed it, ecommerce, recorded strong growth. Good news!

One report, the Mercent eCommerce Performance Index (MEPI), measures year-over-year same-seller gross merchandise value for national brand name retailers selling across ecommerce sales channels. For the first quarter of 2011, the report shows that retailers selling through the Mercent Retail online channel platform grew 19 percent over last year, those parcitpating in Amazon’s “Selling on Amazon” pogram and Google Product Search increased by 44 percent and 26 percent respectively.

A report issued by MasterCard Advisors, SpendingPulse (a macroeconomic report tracking national retail and services sales), showed that some sectors, particularly online, have experienced solid growth. Ecommerce continued to grow in double digits, according to the report, posting its fifth consecutive month of double-digit growth, rising by 16.1 percent, higher than February’s 13.2 percent increase. According to the report, online apparel sales grew by 18.7 percent, which marks the 16th straight double-digit increase. Sub-categories of apparel also grew robustly, as did department stores at 8.4 percent and electronics at 14 percent.

The luxury sector also showed positive growth numbers. The SpendingPulse Luxury Index, which measures sales at high-end restaurants, food stores, department stores and general apparel categories, was up 8.5 percent, the sixth consecutive month of growth.

But not everything is rosy. Gasoline prices still remain a concern and have inhibited some sectors from growing more quickly. Michael McNamara, Vice President, Research and Analysis, MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, said that high gasoline prices typically result in consumers consolidating shopping trips, shopping closer to home and making fewer trips to the brick and mortar locations. However, this has helped the ecommerce channel, he said. According to the Mercent report, shopping engines and comparison shopping engines trail the industry, posting low single digit growth rates.

The potential appears to be in social media: retailer investment in future growth is focused on social networks, local and mobile shopping programs and more behaviorally targeted display ad campaigns.