3 Retailers With New Holiday Ideas

Consumers continue to flock to retailers this holiday season with tons of deals and discounts to keep them shopping. For most retailers, the holiday shopping season represents 20% to 40% of annual sales. The National Retail Federation said the 2012 holiday shopping season made up 19.3% of 2012's annual retail sales. In 2013, holiday sales are expected to climb 4% to $602.1 billion. Here are three company's trying new strategies for the holidays to capture additional revenue.

Kohl's open 'round the clock
Big-box retailer Kohl's (NYSE: KSS  ) is pulling out all the stops for the holiday shopping season and rewarding last-minute shoppers. In an attempt to outdo the competition, Kohl's is keeping all of its locations open for 100 straight hours leading up to Christmas Eve. Stores are currently open 24 hours every day until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Kohl's said in a statement, "The holiday season is an eventful time for families, and Kohl's is making it easy for shoppers to wrap up their last-minute gift giving with 24 hour access to Kohl's stores right up until Christmas Eve." The retailer is hoping that keeping its 1,158 stores staffed and stocked up through the night will help boost fourth-quarter sales.

In the third quarter, Kohl's reported a 1% decline in total sales to $4.4 billion. Same-store sales declined 1.6% and earnings per share fell to $0.81 from the prior year's $0.91. This brings nine-month sales to $12.9 billion, which is relatively flat versus last year's total.

Fourth-quarter sales are expected to come in a range of $1.59 to $1.74, according to the company, while analysts are expecting earnings to hit $1.66. A strong last week of holiday sales from the retailer could be the difference between hitting estimated fourth quarter revenue and earnings estimates and missing them.

Shine bright like a diamond
Defying the logic that consumers have to see wedding rings before purchasing them, online retailer Blue Nile (NASDAQ: NILE  ) (NASDAQ: NILE  ) is now bridging the gap with a holiday bet. Blue Nile has seen success and huge growth by selling diamonds online. The company will now use a limited holiday offering as an opportunity to physically show off its diamonds without taking away from online sales.

Blue Nile announced a partnership with Nordstrom's that will center around a Seattle store. Over 115 engagement rings and wedding bands will be available in Nordstrom's to try on and look at. The kicker in this "try before you buy" experiment is that no physical sales will take place, but rather customers will still have to purchase the rings online directly from Blue Nile. This is a huge step for the small internet retailer. In fact, the six month experiment inside the flagship Nordstrom's store could help Blue Nile expand into 17 additional stores with Wedding Suite Salons.

Blue Nile's recent third quarter showed its continued growth as more people shop online for big ticket items like jewelry. Total revenue of $98.9 million was a 10% increase and marked the sixth consecutive quarter of double digit growth for Blue Nile. It didn't hurt that engagement ring sales in the United States grew 7% to $57.9 million.

Blue Nile is seeing strong growth in men's wedding bands and international markets. In the third quarter, international sales grew 22.9%. China continues to be an area of focus as the company believes it can reach $100 million in annual sales in the country within three years. Another big transition for Blue Nile is its entry into fashioned diamond jewelry. While this seems like a no-brainer, it will be a big move and revenue driver for a company primarily known for wedding rings. Blue Nile could even try to get some of its newer items in Nordstrom stores as a way to showcase them.

Lease to survive
One common theme for retail in 2013 has been the decline of the big box retailer. Stores like JC Penney and Sears have seen sales fall and less traffic entering their stores. Sears parent Sears Holdings (NASDAQ: SHLD  ) is betting on its other brand, K-Mart, with an extended holiday sales push.

After a short test, K-Mart has rolled out a national lease-to-own program to help customers purchase larger ticket items. K-Mart, which has been known for strong layaway sales during the holidays, could see a big boost in holiday sales from this new promotion. All items priced over $150 are able to be secured by customers by making a payment in store and agreeing to monthly or bi-weekly payments later on.

Unlike layaway, customers can take the item out of the store. There are certain requirements for the program, including age, earnings, and payment methods. Of course there is also the downside that items will cost more than retail if the lease goes the full term. Customers are able to buy out leases after five months of payments.

For Sears Holdings, this is a continued last ditch effort to push sales up for the struggling retailer. In the second quarter, K-mart had sales of $3.2 billion, compared to $4.8 billion for the namesake Sears brand. Same store sales were down 2.1% at K-Mart, compared to a negative 0.8% comparable at Sears stores. Sears Holdings continues to close stores and sell off assets in an attempt to save the company. Who knows, Sears might have the answer if it can continue to boost sales with leasing and layaway sales.

Final thoughts
The holiday season brings out the best in retailers with huge discounts and deals to outdo one another. Stores continue to open earlier and stay open later in an attempt for the almighty dollar. These three retailers aren't going too far out of the box, but have clear strategies to boost sales. Kohl's and K-Mart continue to operate as big box retailers and struggle with sales and profits. On the other hand, Blue Nile might be worth buying, as sales continue to explode. That said, the diamond retailer is trading at year highs and has a lofty price to earnings ratio that should keep investors on their toes.

 

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