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The US election, e-receipts and scammers stealing Christmas

 

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As millions of people across the US will have voted by the time you read this, it seems like a good moment to out myself as a total politics nerd. Although I followed the Australian campaign earlier this year, the US race is on a completely different planet. The stadium events, the scandals, the merchandise… it’s a circus and one I’ve (mainly) enjoyed watching.

Of course, the election is much more than a spectacle. It’s a huge decision that will decide the future of the US and has a real impact on people’s lives and jobs. It also has a knock on effect for the retail industry.

As we know, elections make consumers risk averse. In fact, according to the American National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual survey, a majority of Americans will be cautious about their spending this holiday season. In a separate NRF poll, more than a quarter of consumers said the election would impact their spending for the holidays.

However, NRF president and CEO, Matthew Shay, said it’s not all bad news for US retailers. He predicts spending will pick up once the election is well and truly over and told retailers to prepare for a rush of consumers once some economic and political certainty has been established.

Closer to home, the National Retail Association (NRA) is predicting Australians will spend a record $46.5 billion during the holiday trading period, which is counted from the final two weeks of November up until New Year’s Eve.

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NRA CEO Dominique Lamb said this represents a four per cent increase on last year’s figures, even though retail has experienced a slow year due in large part to our own federal election. If the predictions are correct, consumers will be spending more than a billion dollars a day.

Here are a few other things I’ve been interested in this week:

I’m listening to…Season four of the StartUp podcast produced by Gimlet Media. This is a show about what it’s really like to run a business, bad decisions and all. Season one followed Gimlet founder Alex Blumberg as he started his podcast company, from the initial idea to raising capital, employing staff and deciding on a name. In season four, the show goes behind the scenes with controversial American Apparel founder and former CEO Dov Charney as he attempts to build a new clothing brand.

I’m reading…this story from The New York Times about the scammers taking advantage of the Christmas shopping season by creating fake retail iPhone apps. According to the Times, counterfeiters are using the impostor apps to lure shoppers into entering their credit card information or to install malware on phones that can steal personal data.

On a completely different note, this piece from The Guardian about the new direction for UK chain Marks & Spencer is an interesting read. The retailer is planning a major business overhaul, including the closure of 53 stores in 10 countries, in an attempt to turn the company around.

I’m talking to…Matt Hoggart, co-founder of Prezzee, about why Australian retailers should care about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You can check out our chat here.

I’m thinking about…electronic receipts. Although Apple has been doing this for years, it seems like Aussie retailers are just starting to catch on to the beauty of an e-receipt. As a shopper once forced to keep a pair of $200 shoes that didn’t fit because I’d misplaced the receipt, doing away with paper seems like a good idea.

For retailer’s the benefits seem even greater: they provide an in-built marketing opportunity; let you track sales data in bricks and mortar stores as you would with online purchases; and they help you add more subscribers to your email list (by providing a ‘sign up here’ button, not by automatically adding them).

So why aren’t more retailers offering e-receipts? What am I missing? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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