Retailers are stocking fewer goods on their shelves, but have companies taken inventory reduction too far? A number of academic studies of U.S. retailers have revealed an overall decrease in product inventories.

Rogelio Oliva and Gregory Heim, professors in the Department of Information & Operations Management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, are two of the researchers behind a study that examines this issue using data from 114 U.S. retailers during 2000 to 2013.

They examined the relationship between inventory leanness (in essence, holding less product on the shelves relative to their sales volume) and operational efficiency in brick-and-mortar retail stores.

“The notion of operational efficiency is essentially how well do you use resources? How well are your physical assets and labor being used to generate sales?” said Oliva. For retailers, inventory is a major cost. By stocking less product, retailers can use that cash for other investments.

Leanness has its limits

However, Oliva notes that retailers going “too low” on inventory leanness is a real problem.

“People have this idea of, ‘I have too much inventory, I have to streamline it, there’s all this technology, I can do it,’” Oliva added. “Our data shows that some firms are going too far and they’re having to back down.”

An important point of the study highlights that inventory leanness is not a “one size fits all” decision – it is largely dependent on the size of the company and demand variability. According to this research, small retailers experience a reduction in efficiency when increasing inventory leanness before large retailers do. In other words, large retailers can have higher leanness than small retailers, but they will also experience the drop in operational efficiency if they go too far.

Big retailers like Walmart and Target are better equipped to work with lean inventory positions because they have the resources to keep up with demand that smaller retailers often lack. Information technology can play a critical role in whether a company has the affordability to operate with leaner product on the shelves.

“If you have dependable IT, you can lower that inventory level because you can communicate quantity needs in a timely manner. If you lack the infrastructure, you have to raise up that inventory,” noted Oliva. “If you don’t have the capital, the relationships, or the scale – you can’t push leanness. You’ll run into inefficiencies a lot sooner than someone who has the ability to use capital and technology.”

Stocking for uncertainty

The study also found that retailers achieved higher efficiency by keeping more product on the shelves when demand was uncertain.

“If you have a very stable demand, you can have lower inventory,” explained Oliva. For example, home improvement products such as laminate flooring or faucet fixtures are common items that are less susceptible to purchase spikes. “If you have demand instability, you have to protect yourself by carrying a lot more inventory relative to the average sales. You have to take risks on having that inventory, because it might take off. You can’t start pushing leanness if you’re in a business that has high demand variability,” he noted. An example would be a specialty toy that unexpectedly becomes the “must have” holiday gift.

The researchers recommended that retail managers take special care when pursuing inventory leanness.

“Too much leanness is going to reduce your efficiency. You cannot satisfy customer demand with empty shelves. On the other hand, when you have excess inventory, a large portion of your assets is now idle and you’re spending too much time counting the product,” said Oliva.

Stock-outs have always been a pain point for customers. Indeed, this is another topic area where Mays Business School professors have devoted lots of effort to research stockout prevention. “In an era when Amazon can deliver packages to your doorstep in two days, or even two hours, store-based retailers cannot risk frustrating customers who make the effort to visit their physical store, only to encounter an empty shelf,” added Kelli Hollinger, Director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University.

The researchers hope to provide a big-picture outlook for retailers of all sizes who are working with inventory leanness levels to balance operational effectiveness with profits. Each company has varying resources, needs, and consumer demands – inventory leanness should be managed accordingly.

“The kind of recommendations we give are more strategic guidelines rather than operational,” Oliva concluded.

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

At Mays Business School, we step up to advance the world’s prosperity. Our mission is to be a vibrant learning organization that creates impactful knowledge and develops transformational leaders. Mays Business School educates more than 6,400 undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its programs and for faculty research.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M

The 2018 back-to-school shopping season is underway, and spending is expected to reach almost $27.6 billion – nearly 50 percent of annual school-related spending for a quarter of U.S. households. The one-month countdown to the first day of classes is under way, as many school districts have a start date of Monday, August 20.

In-store vs. online

Brick-and-mortar stores remain in the lead with back-to-school shoppers, but online spending continues to increase. Based on a survey by Deloitte, 57 percent of back-to-school shopping will be conducted in-store compared to 23 percent online, with 20 percent undecided how they will shop. Up from 2017, online shopping has gained ground in sales of school supplies, clothing, and computers. However, in-store sales are up for electronic gadgets. Despite the increasing push from online shopping, 96 percent of parents will head to a physical store at least once during the back-to-school shopping season, according to RetailMeNot.

“While a healthy economy is likely to lift purchasing across all categories, electronics spending is on track to out-pace apparel by 2019. Looking cool is certainly not just about what brand you do or don’t wear, but about what smartphone is in your pocket,” (Reference: RetailMeNot) says Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School.

How much time do shoppers allow?

Approximately $18 billion will be spent in the four-week period between mid-July and mid-August, reaching a peak in early August. Nearly 62 percent of parents have started their back-to-school shopping before August. According to a study by Deloitte, early shoppers are likely to spend 20 percent more than those who start late, and 68 percent of consumers intend to finish their back-to-school shopping within a month. However, the longer a person extends his shopping, the more he is likely to spend.

“It’s possible that people who enjoy shopping tend to start shopping earlier and plan to spend more while shopping,” added Christina Kan, an assistant professor of marketing at Mays Business School who researches consumer behavior and psychology.

Time to look for deals?

According to RetailMeNot, 67 percent of shoppers say they look for more savings during the back-to-school season than other times of the year, which is up from 36 percent in 2017. Anticipated spending is up across all major categories, with shoppers looking to spend the most on clothing. For 65 percent of parents, final price is the biggest factor in what they will buy for their kids. Based on figures from the National Retail Federation, households with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of nearly $685 each.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will require more consumer control and creative digital marketing. To clear up some of the confusion, Venky Shankar, Professor & Coleman Chair in Marketing and Director of Research at the Center for Retailing Studies, answers some questions about it.

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is a sweeping set of new rules developed by the EU to protect consumers in Europe.

Why is it important?

GDPR comes at the right time as we all are still recovering from the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica breach of consumer trust. The new set of rules will go into effect starting May 25. Non-compliant companies can face fines up to 4 percent of company revenues or Euro 20 million, whichever is greater. Although the jurisdiction is limited to EU, it will represent a test case for other countries to develop their own data protection regulations.

Unfortunately, only about one-third of marketers have heard about it and about one-fifth of the companies haven’t made any meaningful changes to their data collection and use to the point of non-compliance.

How will it affect consumers? …Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M

Lauren Osborne has been named Advisor of the Year. The university-level recognition from the Division of Student Affairs recognizes advisors who distinguish themselves by providing exemplary guidance, support, and dedication to the advisement of a recognized student organization at Texas A&M University.

Awards are presented annually to one advisor from each of the three categories: registered, affiliated, and sponsored. Osborne advises the Student Retailing Association, which is a registered organization.

Osborne is the program manager for the Center for Retailing Studies (CRS) in Mays Business School’s Department of Marketing.

Osborne encourages officers to step up as leaders, said CRS Director Kelli Hollinger. “SRA runs incredibly smoothly and provides extraordinary professional development opportunities for its 65 members.”

Hollinger said she sees Osborne’s passion for her work exhibited every day. “Students admire her so much for genuinely caring about their academic success, career ambitions, and personal stories,” she said.

Osborne graduated from Texas A&M in 2005 with a degree in Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences with an emphasis in Tourism Marketing. She will celebrate her five-year anniversary with Mays on July 1. She started with CRS as program coordinator, and was promoted to program manager in 2016.

She previously worked as the director of development for the Children’s Museum of the Brazos Valley. Before that, she worked as an executive meeting manager in the hotel industry for 6 ½ years at properties in Texas and Mississippi.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Selfless service, Spotlights, Staff, Texas A&M

Marketing Professor Venkatesh Shankar was an invited guest of the U.S. State Department in  Cairo, Egypt last week, where he delivered multiple presentations on marketing. He said online promotion can make a quantum leap in the trade between Egypt and the United States.

At the International Conference on Business Sciences on April 15-16, Shankar delivered presentations on “Innovations in Emerging Economies” and “Digital Marketing: Trends and the Future.” He spoke at the American Chamber of Commerce, Cairo University, Nile University, Ain Shams University, American University in Cairo, and American Embassy.

During a meeting with a number of journalists at the American Embassy in Cairo, he said electronic marketing helps to provide information about the products available in Egypt, and is a competitive advantage in the U.S. market. “Electronic marketing can make a difference in the movement of trade in the sectors of cars and technology among countries in the next five years,” he said.

Shankar said the advantages of electronic marketing will not stop at exports and imports between Egypt and the U.S., but could also introduce American consumers to some Egyptian products and services, enabling Egyptian entrepreneurs to market their products electronically and exchange experiences with their counterparts in the U.S.

“The challenge here is that some communication technologies are not as powerful in rural areas,” Shankar said. “They will have to focus on covering those regions.”

Shankar called on all companies to increase their investments in the development of the technology sectors infrastructure, which helps to expand the establishment of electronic stores and facilitates the transport of electronic goods. “Large companies rely on electronic marketing because they consider it a powerful tool to promote their products,” he said.

About Shankar:

Venkatesh (Venky) Shankar is the Coleman Chair Professor of Marketing and Director of Research at the Center for Retailing Studies, Mays Business School. His areas of specialization include digital business, marketing strategy, innovation, retailing, international marketing, and pricing. He has been recognized as one among the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds by Thomson Reuters and as a Top 10 scholar worldwide on innovation.

 

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M

Positive economic trends – including lower interest rates, high consumer confidence, and low unemployment at 4.1 percent – continue the encouraging pace as we enter the spring shopping season.

Chocolate bunnies and baskets are just around the corner
According to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosperity Insights & Analytics, Americans spent a record $18.4 billion on Easter in 2017, an average of $152 per person, with estimates expected to nearly match those numbers this year. Of all planned Easter purchases, 89 percent involve candy. Traditional treats like chocolate bunnies, cream-filled eggs, jellybeans, and marshmallow chicks will continue to top shopping lists.

Toys and crafts are still a hit
There are plenty of basket stuffers for the little ones, and you don’t have to spend much. Discount stores like Dollar General offer a wide variety of Easter gifts. In fact, consumers will look to discount stores more than online or traditional department stores this year. For special surprises, Personal Creations offers customized toys and accessories for your child’s Easter basket. For convenience, Amazon features an assortment of toy-filled plastic eggs in bulk, delivered to your doorstep in two days or less.

Dining
Easter Sunday is a time for gathering with family over a special meal. Shared experiences are highly valued. This year, 60 percent of Americans will visit family and friends, and 58 percent will cook at home. Southern Living and Tablespoon offer a wide variety of recipes, along with special treats for the kids. If you don’t feel like spending time in the kitchen, there are thousands of restaurants with special Easter brunch hours for April 1st.

Passover
The Jewish holiday of Passover will be celebrated from March 30 through April 7. Consumers seeking kosher-friendly items is a major focus this time of year. Not only are kosher foods more easily available today, but they have become increasingly popular because of the high demand for gluten-free and all-natural products. Since 2012, the number of Passover food products has more than doubled to over 53,000. Special culinary creativity is important, since the absence of leavening is a central practice of this tradition. There are numerous Passover recipes and a variety of products ranging from the primary food of matzah to special meats and kosher wines.

Time for home repairs?
Spring is the time of year for consumers to spend more on home improvements and new appliances. The Home Depot and Lowe’s recently announced they would hire around 130,000 temporary workers for the peak season of spring. In addition, Lowe’s also announced that the company will pay employees up to $1,000 in bonuses and expand benefits in 2018 as a result of the recent tax reform.

Goodbye to another historical brand
While the macro-trends for 2018 are positive, Toys “R” Us recently announced the company will close or sell all of its U.S. stores. Liquidation sales have already started. The retailing giant known for the jingle “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid” filed for bankruptcy in late 2017. Declining sales, burdensome debt, and heavy competition from both digital players and big-box stores proved to be too much for the once iconic brand.

“Retailers are still adjusting to changed consumer habits. There will be more store closing this year from retailers who haven’t evolved their business models enough,” says Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Mays Business School. “But, 2017 predictions of the ‘death of retail’ or the click-bait phrase of ‘retail-apocalypse’ are wrong. Retail is very much alive.”

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The Center for Retailing Studies (CRS) proudly announces its partnership with the (R)Tech Center for Innovation. Texas A&M becomes one of 10 inaugural affiliate universities to align with the (R)Tech Center, organized by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), and create a retail-tech talent pipeline.

RILA is the trade association for America’s largest and most respected retailers, representing more than 200 members. The partnership between Texas A&M and RILA strengthens corporate relationships with current CRS partners like H-E-B and Dollar General, while connecting CRS with other top retailers such as Best Buy, The Home Depot, and Apple.

The (R)Tech Center for Innovation, launched by RILA in 2017, focuses on helping retailers navigate the industry’s transformation through research, innovative technologies, and creating a culture of innovation – exposing retailers to the technologies and innovations driving change in retail.

“For 35 years, Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School has promoted retailing as an aspirational career choice. Our graduates possess the business acumen to drive sales at America’s largest companies. The partnership with RILA enhances our ability to train students to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and build essential technical skills so they can become transformational leaders in retailing,” said Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M.

The (R)Tech Talent Pipeline will attract and expose young graduates with tech backgrounds to opportunities in the industry, helping shape a 21st-century retail workforce as retailers continue to innovate.

“We are excited to bring innovation to the forefront of retail and provide a test bed for new concepts, technologies, and user experiences. Supported by strong research in the area of design, augmented reality and consumer behavior, we expect this will lead to significant new insights into today’s consumer, and what retail of the future will hold,” said Amy Hillman, dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. Hillman was among the Outstanding Doctoral Alumni from Mays Business School in 2008.

Beginning this year, RILA and the (R)Tech Center for Innovation will address the need for recruiting employees with technical skills in three phases. Phase one will focus on four strategies that initiate the talent pipeline: hosting hackathons that expose students to retail challenges, facilitating a global case competition for creative student ideas, creating multi-use experimental stores with physical locations on select campuses, and launching an online certification specifically for mid-to-senior-level retail executives to educate them on innovative trends. Phases two and three will involve a program to recruit new talent into the industry and help retailers build tech skills in-house.

For more on this announcement, visit www.rila.org.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

Valentine’s spending looks to enjoy a similar boost seen with the 2017 holiday season, the most since the Great Recession of 2009. Strong indicators include a roaring stock market, low unemployment, and high consumer confidence.

Kelli Hollinger, Director of the Center for Retailing Studies, says, “Shoppers opened their wallets more than analysts expected this past Christmas, with many retailers exceeding sales projections. Both retailers and consumers are beginning 2018 with more optimism. For Valentine’s Day romantics looking to spend on their sweethearts, retailers will offer promotions for top-gifting items, like candy, flowers, and jewelry that fit any budget.”

Create something memorable
Experiences remain popular, even when the sweetheart in your life is a furry friend. PetSmart is hosting pup playtime 9-5 on Valentine’s Day in select markets. Doggie desserts include a free ice cream treat, plus a free digital keepsake for pet parents.

If day trips are more appealing than diamonds, shoppers seeking experiences can book special romance packages like some of the options from Groupon, Travelzoo, or Renaissance Hotels.

Personalized gifts such as one-of-a-kind socks emblazoned with couple’s names or even faces, like sockprints.com add a little humor to gifting.

For a special night out, online sources like OpenTable are helpful for finding local restaurants with special menu items and promotions for February 14th.

Online and mobile shopping continue trending up
More consumers will shop with their thumbs, browsing, and buying more than ever from their mobile devices. Trendsetter Magnolia Market is featuring special selections for Valentine’s Day.

Online purchasing offers added convenience this season. Texas grocer H-E-B offers in-store pickup or delivery with floral orders.

Tech gifts are in
Besides traditional Valentine’s Day surprises, tech, and mobile accessories have become a popular item for both men and women. Online retailing giant Amazon is featuring deals on hundreds of tech selections, from headphones and smart watches to romantic-themed movies.

Don’t forget the favorites!
Classic Valentine gifts including cards, candy, dining out, and flowers will still top many lovers’ shopping lists.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

Students from Mays Business School recently participated in the annual YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) case study competition. Sixty of the top business, retail, and fashion design programs from universities around the country were represented – including Parsons School of Design, Harvard, Fashion Institute of Technology, Pratt Institute, and Academy of Art University.

As the premier educational fashion non-profit in the U.S, FSF seeks to identify and create career opportunities for students worldwide. FSF grants the largest sum of money and total number of scholarships in the entire fashion community. It also offers hands-on experience via internships with the world’s top fashion companies and most influential leaders – such as Nordstrom, Ulta, and Lululemon.

For the 2018 FSF case study, students were asked to explore a retailer of their choice regarding how the integration of digital technology with offline shopping can improve performance. They spent an entire semester developing a business plan, promotional campaign, and financial analysis.

“My project primarily focused on transforming the fitting room at and allowing customers to ‘virtually immerse’ themselves into an environment of their choice. They can see how they really look beyond the blank-space fitting room when trying on clothes,” explained marketing major Payton Cupstid ’19.

Eight Aggie students were awarded $5,000 each in scholarship funds. Cupstid received an award of $15,000 for a perfect score on her case study paper. Texas A&M was the only university in the competition to have a student that finished with a perfect score.

Students received their awards in New York City on Jan. 9 at a gala featuring special guests such as style icon Martha Stewart and fashion model Coco Rocha.

“It was a challenge, but a fun challenge. The ten-page business plan required a lot of work and many hours of my time, but I enjoyed every minute I devoted to it,” said Cupstid. “I was able to utilize my skills and passions, while also creating something that resembled the abstract thinking and hard work that I am willing to take on to succeed.”

Cheryl Bridges, Executive Professor of Marketing at Mays and mentor to the eight winners, reflected on the trip. “This whole process takes a tremendous amount of work and effort outside the classroom,” she said. “The idea is to get them excited about the industry, and prepare them to hit the ground running when they start their career.”

Students like Payton Cupstid understand the importance of transformational learning opportunities like the FSF case study competition.

“If you’re applying for an internship or full-time job, you’re already ahead of other candidates because you get to showcase your work,” she added. “Mays and the Center for Retailing Studies do a wonderful job of providing students with learning opportunities.”

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The American Marketing Association (AMA) and the American Marketing Association Foundation (AMAF) announce Leonard L. Berry as the winner of the 2018 William L. Wilkie “Marketing for a Better World” Award.

Berry is University Distinguished Professor of Marketing, M.B. Zale Chair in Retailing and Marketing Leadership, Regents Professor, Presidential Professor for Teaching Excellence at Mays Business School. He will receive the award during the 2018 AMA Winter Academic Conference in New Orleans in February.

Berry is a leading scholar in services marketing and retailing studies and, more recently, a leader in the study of healthcare service. He has been published in leading journals and has written 10 books, including Management Lessons from Mayo Clinic, Discovering the Soul of Service, and On Great Service. Berry established the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University in 1982, serving as director until 2000.

He has received numerous honors including the AMA-Irwin-McGraw-Hill Distinguished Marketing Educator Award, Paul D. Converse Award, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Research & Scholarship from the Mays Business School. In 2015, he was named an AMA Fellow. Professor Berry received his Ph.D. from Arizona State University, and in 2014 was inducted into ASU’s Carey School of Business Hall of Fame.

…Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M