Strong consumer confidence and a robust job market fueled the U.S. retail sales rise at their best pace since 2011. Excluding automobiles, overall sales rose 4.9% (Nov 1 – Dec 24), compared with a 3.7% gain in the same period last year, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks all forms of payment. E-commerce grew 18.1%, outpacing in-store sales growth but still totaling less than 10% of sales annually.

Not coincidentally, retailer stocks have rebounded along with their sales. Stocks like Macy’s (up 24%) and Gap (up 18%) are up big just in the last month. Could it be that people will keep buying products in stores and not migrate entirely online?

Retailers have learned some valuable lessons over the past few year...

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone. Retailers enjoyed brisk sales with 174 million people shopping compared to the 164 million expected. Online sales grew about three times faster than in-store sales, continuing a trend of the last decade. Whether you bought online or in-store, it’s all good, right?

Not if you are the retailer. According to UPS, almost one-third of all web orders get sent back vs nine percent at physical stores. A full 75% of shoppers returned some merchandise this year by shipping goods back to the merchant. The expense of processing and shipping those boomeranged items can range from 20% to 65% of e-tailers’ cost of goods sold. Managing returned goods is a dream for shippers like UPS and FedEx,...

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US retailers continue to suffer from frightful occurrences of bankruptcies, zombie malls and acute Amazonitis, e.g., Kroger stock tanked when Amazon announced their plans for Whole Foods. But all is not lost.

Halloween has scared up wickedly positive sales for retailers this year. The National Retail Federation estimates more than 179 million Americans will have participated in some type of Halloween festivities, up from 171 million last year and 157 million in 2015. And total Halloween spending - for costumes, cards, decorations, candy and more - will end hit a record $9.1 billion, up from $8.4 billion last year, even with chocolate prices down an average of .9% this year.

The upbeat readings on Halloween sales fit with what most economis...

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By: Mike Lauber - October 1st, 2017

Tusco has proudly produced products for over 70 years. From store fixtures to stadium seats, boat anchors to truck parts, bingo machinery to advertising signs, water dispensers to commercial kitchen equipment, we have always been makers of tangible stuff.
In coordination with the National Association of Manufacturers’ MFGDay Oct 6, we celebrate our heritage with an eye toward the future. Consider these facts:

  1. If US manufacturing was a country, we’d be the 9th largest economy in the world.
  2. We generate 12.1% of our GDP with <4% of the population.
  3. We support 18.5 million US jobs.
  4. We export $1.3 trillion in goods.
  5. The top three states for US manufacturing jobs (in descending order) are: CA, TX and OH. And Ohio has a lot fewer people.
  6. By 2020, US manufacturing expects to rank as the #1 most competitive in the world.

We keep evolving, learning, growing and investing as the needs of our clients change. It’s an exciting time to be an American manufacturing company.

By: Mike Lauber - May 15th, 2017

This space often highlights the state of American retailing. Today, let’s look at American manufacturing’s advantages. At TuscoMFG as well as Tusco Display, we face global competition every day.

We see growing evidence of greater success among manufacturers in the post-Great Recession era and several reasons for that success:

  1. Costs. Low-wage countries like China have seen significant wage inflation. Dramatically lower energy costs in the US have made a big difference, too. In many instances, US manufacturers compete quite well on costs.
  2. Productivity. It’s well-documented that US workers produce more goods per hour than most other countries due in greater investments in automation, IT, transportation infrastructure networks and education.
  3. Inventory. Global supply chains often require greater inventories. That inventory in turn leaves companies at risk of seeing the products become obsolete, esp in the technology and fashion sectors. Carrying costs for space, labor and energy add up, too.
  4. Proximity. The US market is the largest consumer market in the world. Being close to your customers gives you a speed advantage but also greater flexibility in communicating changes, updates, etc.

Though we buy products abroad when necessary and advantageous, we prefer our Made in America advantages and our clients do, too.

By: Mike Lauber - May 1st, 2017

I write and speak often on the rapid evolution of American retail. We have a microcosm of what’s happening nationally at our local New Towne Mall in New Philadelphia OH.

Back in 1988, the mall opened with three anchor stores: Elder-Beerman, Sears and JCPenney. In the intervening 29 years, at least 80% of the original 50+ stores have gone away, including Regal Cinema. Today, Kohl’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and good ol’ Elder-Beerman are the anchors as the mall owners look for new tenants to fill space soon to be vacated by Sears and JCP. Marshall’s and Jo-Ann Fabric are other recent arrivals. And Ulta just announced their store opening.

Earlier than most small malls, NTM welcomed...

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By Mike Lauber - April 1st, 2017

In a March 18 Wall Street Journal article, Jeff Blackledge, an analyst for Cowen & Co, noted that retail space per citizen varies greatly from one country to another. For instance, the US has 48 sq ft for every man, woman and child. The UK devotes about 22 sq ft and Canada about 13 sq ft for each resident.

Does the US have more bricks and mortar stores than it needs? Sure. And square footage is probably on the decline for the first time in 50 years.

With all the doom and gloom of store closures and the growth of Amazon and online, positive news about stores gets overlooked or downplayed. Dollar General keeps growing – they have 13,320 stores, double the number they had 15 years ago. Aldi’s pla...

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By Mike Lauber - March 3, 2017

You know the story, right? Chicken Little gets bopped on the noggin by an acorn and wrongly assumes that the sky is falling. He runs hither and yon telling Henny Penny, Ducky Lucky, Turkey Lurkey and others that the sky is falling. They all buy into the pending tragedy. The hysterical group eventually encounters Foxey Loxey who first tricks and eventually eats the various characters. The moral of the story: Don’t overreact or it may cost you.

We see such henny-pennyism happening among observers of the retail world. “The sky is falling!” has been replaced by “Amazon is coming!” and “Retail is dying!” The latest cry from last week was the announced closure of 140 JCP ...

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By Mike Lauber - February 27, 2017

On Aug 4, 1930, a new concept in grocery shopping opened in Queens, NYC. King Kullen featured low prices and self-service, a concept that rapidly swept the nation.

From the end of WWII to the end of the 20th century, the primary way grocery stores changed was simply by square feet. I remember growing up in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s and saw our local McArdle’s IGA go from perhaps 12,000sf to maybe 40,000sf in three successive buildings over the span of only a decade. That same scenario played out across the nation as Baby Boomers wanted fed and brand marketers grew to meet the demand. Grocers became supermarkets which led to supercenters and warehouse stores in the bigger-is-better r...

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Ask fictional Don Draper of Mad Men fame what it takes to inform consumers and ultimately move them to action and he’d instantly spout the golden formula of advertising: Reach + Frequency.

This marketing truism has been captivating customers since the days of Henry Ford and has carried its weight through every technology advance, product launch and celebrity endorsement over the last 100 years.

Decoding this recipe, Reach refers to accessing the right audience with the right message at the right time. This is how most people think of marketing. But equally important is Frequency. If you saw the classic "Teach the World to Sing" ad from Coca-Cola – featured in the final episode of Mad Men – only once, it might make you s...

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