Record-breaking Christmas results for retail

The run up to Christmas 2012 has been record-breaking for the retail industry according to many recent reports, with retailers continuing to report record sales as Christmas approaches. Such records included:

  • Retailers such as Laura Ashley, John Lewis and Supergroup all reported profit rises and increased sales, with John Lewis taking £147.8m across its multichannel operation in just 7 days.
  • For the first time spending has topped the £8 billion mark in a single month, for November this year.
  • Year-on-year growth for the clothing sector improved from 12% in October to 20% in November, the strongest recorded for the sector in 2012.

There have also been several interesting shifts in the industry, including changing consumer behaviour through the Christmas period. For example the use of technology when shopping has consistently risen as more and more festive shoppers use the internet, smartphones and tablet devices to shop in the run up to Christmas. Customers are also leaving their shopping later and later, with many shopping during the final week and weekend and some leaving it until the last minute on December 24th, consistently confused and distressed males!

This has likely prompted an increasing number of online retailers to offer next-day delivery, click & collect and later last order dates. Additionally new delivery services such as Shutl and Collect+ are proving extremely popular with retailers and consumers during this period to efficiently guarantee delivery before Christmas.

A rising number of consumers are shopping on Christmas Day – spending vouchers, buying accessories for their latest gadget, apps for their smartphones or e-books for their brand new e-reader. This has led many retailers to adapt their behaviour and replace traditional January sales with straight-after-Christmas sales. John Lewis’ online clearance will begin on Christmas Eve and Amazon plans to start its Boxing Day deals on Christmas Day. However many sales have started a full week before Christmas, for example Nicole Fahri, Clarks and Boden are already discounting by as much as 50%.

However among all this purchasing, don’t forget about the huge volumes of returns! We will be watching eagle-eyed to see how this affects the industry in early 2013.

The growing problem of retail fraud

Retail Bulletin has reported today that shoplifting and retail fraud will cost UK retailers £1 billion over Christmas.

The Shoplifting for Christmas 2012 report by the Centre for Retail Research broke down the costs into losses of £522 million from shoplifting, £431 million through employee theft, and £47 million due to vendor and distribution losses.

However with the right solutions it is possible to bring this number down. Clear Returns’ CEO Vicky Brock commented,

“Losses from fraudulent behaviour are something that the Clear Returns solution can definitely tackle. By analysing historical data we can pinpoint the customer’s who are consistent fraudsters, allowing the retailer to give the customer a call to check if there is a problem, and subtly let them know we’re onto them!”

This problem is not just limited to the UK. The study also looked into costs overseas and found that shoplifting and fraud would cost €5.8 billion in Europe and $8.9 billion in the USA over Christmas.

Clear Returns have discovered that fraud is also apparent online. Our system is able to spot those shoppers who consistently re-buy the same items, and we can highlight wear-and-return issues. Therefore as the online channel grows for retailers, so will these issues. By tackling this now we aim to save retailers millions in lost profits.

Clear Returns visit Women 2.0 and IBM Smartcamp

Another week, another round of international events for the Clear Returns team. While half headed to the Women 2.0 competition in New York, the other half were off to Berlin for the European finals of IBM Smartcamp.

Although we didn’t come away with a prize it was still great to be a part of these prestigious events. We were honoured enough being the only international finalist selected out of 300 applicants at Women 2.0 and 1 of only 6 finalists in the whole of Europe at IBM Smartcamp.

It was great to hear from so many inspirational female entrepreneurs at Women 2.0, such as Sandy Lerner the co-founder of Cisco Systems and founder of Urban Decay as well as Geraldine Laybourne the founder of Oxygen Media. These talks included some great one-liners such as “If you can’t toot your own horn, toot another woman’s horn”. The mentoring sessions in Berlin also proved extremely valuable, with some mentors even tweeting their support for us to win!

Many, many attendees of these events complimented our presentations, and gave us great feedback on our idea. Also the guests were more than willing to help us out with our ask for contacts and introductions. We even had meetings set up for the next day within minutes of our presentation in New York!

Overall, another phenomenal week for Clear Returns!

Clear Returns pitching practice

The time has flown by here at Clear Returns HQ and suddenly the big pitches are less than a week away. November 14th, 5 days away to be exact!

Half of our team are preparing for the European finals of IBM’s Smartcamp in Berlin. As the winners of the Dublin heat we were thrilled and the positive response we gained from that experience has been huge.

Meanwhile the other half of the team are prepping for the Women 2.0 competition in New York. Naturally being the only non-US company selected as finalists we were over the moon to even have the chance to go! Since the announcement of the finalists we have had interest from US companies before we even deliver our pitch so this is sure to be a hugely exciting opportunity.

Needless to say the team are taking every moment they can to rehearse and practice for the big day, and despite some missing props and potentially dodgy accents, the feedback has been positive!

We will keep you posted on our progress so keep an eye out for our next blog post and tweets all through the week.

I-Com Big Data Venture Challenge Winners!

Clear Returns has had a truly phenomenal week at various different events across the country!

First up was the I-Com Big Data Venture Challenge held in Rome on October 16th. Competing alongside 8 finalists our CEO Vicky Brock delivered a superb pitch and was crowned the winner.

Next we were in Liverpool representing high-growth technology companies at The Pitch Live. 80 start-ups from across the UK pitched at the event held at the Merseyside Maritime Museum on the 18th and 19th of October. Clear Returns were selected as one of the top 20, who must now compete in a public vote to earn their place at the grand final on the 16th of November in London.

That night we also attended Hatchery Hits the Street, this awards ceremony is hosted by our business accelerator Entrepreneurial Spark and with the support of the Royal Bank of Scotland they provide £25,000 in prizes for entrepreneurs. CEO Vicky Brock pitched at this event in front of almost 400 guests, including Entrepreneurial Spark backers Sir Tom Hunter and Sir Willie Haughey. At the end of the night when we thought we’d missed out on a prize the big winner was announced – Clear Returns! We won the best high impact award – and a £3,500 cheque!

Finally on the 25th of October we were selected to appear at IBM’s Smartcamp in Dublin. Competing against 4 other strong contenders Clear Returns were honoured to be selected as the winners and will now attend the European finals in Berlin on November 14th.

How to top a week like that? Well New York is still to come…