Forrester Research

Consistent reports hanging an R.I.P. sign over the retail sector appear to be greatly exaggerated. A new report suggests that the segment is, in fact, showing signs of springing back to life. Forrester Research completed a survey on behalf of the National Retail Federation and found that more store openings than closings are in the works for 2019.

The report shows that more than a third (36%) of stores expect to end the year with more locations than they had at the end of 2018. Only 7% said they are likely to have fewer stores open at year-end. At the least, a clear majority (57%) anticipates they will have roughly the same number of stores open as last year.

“The market has dispelled any notion of a purported ‘retail apocalypse,’ though challenges do still exist for retailers,” the report says. “Many retailers we surveyed plan to open new stores in 2019, but simultaneously, e-commerce sites are becoming more expensive to operate.” It notes a significant number of retailers (38%) reported they would experiment in 2019 with flexible formats like pop-ups to generate brand awareness and avoid the costs of long-term leases.

One retailer who will unexpectedly be part of the opening list is Charlotte Russe, which filed for bankruptcy protection in February and plans to shut down all its stores. But the brand was purchased by a Canadian apparel manufacturer, which just announced its retail comeback. “We are planning a brand new online shopping experience, as well as reopening 100 retail locations across the U.S.,” the store’s website announced.

Retail has long been a stalwart segment at radio. For all of 2018, a robust six among the top 10 national advertisers offer consumers products via healthy brick and mortar locations. According to Media Monitors, which tracks radio spending in 85 markets, The Home Depot was No. 1, along with JC Penney (No. 3), Lowe’s (No. 5), Macy’s (No. 6), Walgreens (No. 7) and Staples (No. 9). Others within the top 40 year-end top airwaves advertisers include: CVS, AutoZone, Diamonds Direct, Shane Co., and NAPA.

Retailers also ratchet up their radio marketing surrounding apropos holidays. As an example, jewelry stores swell at Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas, including Diamonds Direct, Shane Co., DazzleMe, Jared The Galleria of Jewelry and Genesis Diamonds.

Likewise for department stores around Black Friday and Christmas, when the likes of Macy’s, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Walmart and Target all get serious over the airwaves.

While the Forrester-NRF survey did not ask marketers about radio, it found 28% of retailers said they plan to spend more on TV in 2019 compared to last year. Yet slightly more (35%) said they’ll spend less. The report also reveals retailers’ use of digital marketing is also evolving. The fastest-growing channel is social marketing, which its analysts say for most stores means Facebook or Instagram. “Privacy gurus may be wary of Facebook, but retail marketers are clearly not,” the research firm says. Connected TV is also part of the digital marketing strategy for many. Forrester says 29% of those retailers surveyed said they’ll spend more on connected TV this year compared to last year. Another 33% will spend the same while 29% will reduce the size of their connected TV ad budgets.