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Three Observations on 2011 Retail

Others will comprehensively comment on chain closings, product hits and misses and results by various categories and specific retailers. Instead, here are a few observations on the year just past.

1.It was a good year. Overall, retail sales grew 6.5%, according to the US Dept of Commerce. That’s the best growth in over a decade. Holiday sales grew 4.1%, more than the 2.8% predicted by the National Retail Federation as recently as Thanksgiving. Auto sales contributed significantly by jumping 10% in 2011. Consumer confidence grew after several years of severe weakness.

2.ZMOT matters. Both consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and retailers recognized that the “zero moment of truth,” when people search, seek opinions of others and explore purchase options before even going out to buy – online or in-person – is crucial to success. You must win the ZMOT before the first moment of truth (at the store) or the second (when the consumer uses the product). ZMOT gained great currency in 2011.

3.Bricks meet clicks. For 15 years, people have forecast the end of bricks-and-mortar stores at the hands of the Internet. That’s hooey. Shopping remains a visceral, social and even entertaining activity that meets peoples’ needs. Smart phones, QR codes and mobile marketing only made the retail experience better in 2011.