- Myer gets a lift from mild spring
- Online shoppers to offer festive cheer
- Retailers expecting a brighter Xmas
It's early days but feelings about Australia's department store chain Myer might just be turning the corner, with sales up in the first quarter of its 2012-13 financial year and investors pushing the company's share price up 6 per cent to a six-month high.
Myer kicked off the first quarter of 2013 with consumers spending $688 million in its stores, up 1 per cent on last year, as the company started to focus on customer service (Myer's financial year starts on July 1). It has also started playing hardball with suppliers to try and close the gap between the price consumers can source products in online stores overseas versus the price charged in the local stores.
Myer boss Bernie Brookes said online sales represented less than one per cent of total turnover but the goal was to get it to 10 per cent within five years.
He said the company was continually improving its website and was trying to close the price gap to make Myer more competitive. "But there will always be a gap of 10 per cent in prices because of the GST," he said.
Some of the successes in price harmonisation between online and bricks and mortar came from cookware, bedding and cosmetics.
Lifting sales 1 per cent and comparable store sales by 0.8 per cent might seem light-on but it is a continuation of a trend from the last quarter and offers a ray of hope that foot traffic will continue to rise in the lead up to Christmas, which is the most important sales period for any retailer.
It certainly put a spark under the group's share price, with the stock rising 6 per cent in early trade as investors digested news that the department store chain might finally be getting its act together in terms of reducing its reliance on markdowns and instead offering products people want to buy at a price not too far away from a similar product being sold online overseas.
In a teleconference for analysts and investors Brookes said the trading environment was tough. "We are not clicking our heels and saying everything is rosy," he said. "But we are looking forward to a continuation in November and December."
But there were glimmers of hope for Christmas. Research from Roy Morgan showed that shoppers are expected to spend $142 billion between now and Christmas day. It also follows Westpac's index of consumer sentiment, out yesterday, which showed that shoppers are feeling more confident.
While this is thanks to more foot traffic and and increase in the amount shoppers are spending when they go into Myer stores, it also relates to a wider range of products and more targeted customer service.
But let's not get carried away yet. Myer and David Jones still have a long way to go to improve customer service and lift their online game.