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Retailers need to focus on consumer expectations, marry clicks & bricks, according to new Plante Moran study


Grand Rapids, Michigan, March 27, 2012 – Retailers looking to grow in 2012 need to ensure they meet or exceed consumer expectations and have strategies that focus on online, phone and in-store service, according to a new study from Plante Moran, PLLC.

Plante Moran, one of the nation’s largest certified public accounting and business advisory firm, noted in its 2012 retail industry outlook:

  • Consumer confidence increased during 2011 and could continue to do so in coming months
  • Holiday sales reached new highs by most measures, giving retailers a strong tailwind moving into 2012
  • A strong holiday season alone isn’t enough to keep retailers afloat. SearsKmart, which expected customers to pay for a poorer shopping experience, wound up shuttering 80 stores before the new year

“Retailers must do everything they can to meet consumer expectations for quality and value,” said Kathy Downey, Plante Moran’s retail industry group leader. “They need to develop solid business models that integrate an online presence with four-wall retailer space. In other words, they have to be nimble and innovative.”

The simultaneous popping of the credit and housing bubbles, in combination with the financial crisis of 2008, caused many households to pull back on spending and focus on paying down debt, Downey noted. Governments at home and abroad are in a similar position, with the report noting that this “new normal” will be around for some time.

The report cited several positive economic trends that could help retailers, including:

  • Stronger corporate balance sheets
  • Better capitalized banks willing to lend
  • Consumers focused on reducing debt and saving more, although late in 2011 they dipped into savings to fund spending

“Even with these pluses, however, optimistic economists are projecting another slow growth year in 2012,” Downey said. “We suggest businesses carefully assess their options and avoid impulsive and uncoordinated responses while nurturing flexibility so an organization can be prepared with opportunity knocks.”

To read the 2012 retail industry outlook in its entirety, please download it here.

About Plante Moran, PLLC

Plante Moran is among the nation’s largest certified public accounting and business advisory firms, providing clients with tax, audit, risk management, financial, technology, business consulting, and wealth management services. Plante Moran has a staff of more than 1,600 professionals in 21 offices throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, with international offices in Shanghai, China; Monterrey, Mexico and Mumbai, India. Plante Moran has been recognized by a number of organizations, including FORTUNE magazine, as one of the country’s best places to work.

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