Retailers are feeling confident about their financial situations - projecting growing sales and revenue - but many feel significant investment toward innovation in an omni-channel strategy including website, mobile and social media channels will be needed to remain competitive. These are some of the key insights found in the 7th annual CIT Retail Outlook study conducted online among 250 senior middle market retail executives by Harris Poll, on behalf of CIT Group Inc. (NYSE:CIT), a leading provider of commercial lending and leasing services.

Most retailers report feeling optimistic about their prospects for sales and revenue growth. About 70% predict good results from sales in all channels when looking toward the near-term future, with about 6 in 10 (58%) projecting that holiday sales increases will reach 6% or more. As a result, around half or more of retailers surveyed indicate they plan to increase hourly employees (62%), in-store exempt employees (49%) and employees dedicated to Internet/mobile sales (62%) during the upcoming holiday season.

However, the confluence of online presence, mobile applications and innovative brick-and-mortar retailers means that retailers must invest in innovation to remain competitive. Most respondents characterize revenue as growing from website (71%), in-store (59%) and mobile (57%) sales. Retailers are placing an emphasis on tech when setting their priorities for the coming year.

"The report corroborates what we have been observing over the past few years with our clients and provides us insight into what retail executives are focusing on, both in terms of their near-term tactics and long-term strategies," said  Burt Feinberg, President of  CIT Commercial & Industrial Finance. "We're witnessing an increased fusion between brick-and-mortar, web and mobile strategies intertwined with social media to build brands and customer loyalty. The use of improved customer data is helping to achieve efficient targeted marketing using these mediums to build sales to all generations - from millennials to baby boomers."

KEY FINDINGS
  • Malls Replaced by Pop-ups and One-Stop Shops: The bell is tolling for malls, with more than 4 in 10 (45%) retailers reporting a continued downward spiral in the relevance of the American Mall as inevitable. In its wake, more than 6 in 10 (62%) believe pop-up retailers are creating greater competition for larger, more established retailers and "one-stop shop" retailers, such as Walmart or Target, will become the stores of the future (61%).
  • Web Presence More Important than Brick-and-Mortar: More retailers feel that revenue is growing from website/web stores (71%) versus from physical stores (59%). And 58% go as far as to say that brick-and-mortar-only stores will not survive in the future. One complication is that more than 6 in 10 (63%) believe that it has been challenging to implement an omni-channel strategy that provides a seamless experience to consumers.
  • Increased Investment into Mobile Strategy: A large majority of retailers (72%) see having a mobile app as a competitive edge, with more than half (57%) believing revenue is growing from mobile. As a result, nearly 2 out of 3 retailers (62%) expect an increase in the number of staff they devote to Internet/mobile sales channels for both the holiday season and upcoming New Year.
  • Regulations Not Seen as a Barrier to Growth: Most retailers view federal laws/regulations involving labor (54%) and manufacturing (54%) as having a positive impact on the growth of their business.
  • Top Trends for 2016: At least 60% of retailers surveyed indicated the following as trends for 2016: new products; creating a web presence; better use of data analytics; incorporation of chip-enabled credit and debit cards; free shipping, returns and in-store returns; and movement of business functions in-house.
  • Confidence in Data Security Planning: More than three-quarters (79%) report having effective plans to deal with risks in cyber security and data breaches at point-of-sale. Nearly 3 in 4 (74%) feel that chip-enabled credit and debit cards provide protection for consumers.
  • Bolstering Supply Chains: Half (50%) of the retailers surveyed feel concerned about their supply chain. Sixty-one percent report expanding supplier partnerships, more than half (57%) are increasing utilization of technology for logistics planning and 54% are building inventory early to prepare for potential unexpected changes in their supply chain.

EDITOR'S NOTE:

CIT thought leadership content can be found at View from the Middle™ ( cit.com/viewfromthemiddle) and our CIT Point of View blog ( cit.com/pov). View our corporate video ( cit.com/corporatevideo) and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook. Register to receive press releases at cit.com/newsalerts.

Methodology

This study was commissioned by CIT and conducted by Harris Poll through a multi-phased research approach. An online survey within the United States was conducted between August 26, 2015 to September 21, 2015, among 250 financial decision makers within the retail industry working at companies with revenue between $5 million and $3 billion. In addition, to better understand key challenges facing retailers and how they are addressing these challenges, a moderated qualitative online bulletin board discussion was conducted from September 23, 2015 to September 24, 2015 among 11 financial decision makers working at companies with revenue between $5 million and $3 billion.

About Harris Poll

Over the last five decades, Harris Poll has become a media staple. With comprehensive experience and precise technique in public opinion polling, along with a proven track record of uncovering consumers' motivations and behaviors, Harris Poll has gained strong brand recognition around the world.

About CIT

Founded in 1908, CIT (NYSE: CIT) is a financial holding company with more than $65 billion in assets. Its principal bank subsidiary, CIT Bank, N.A., (Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender) has more than $30 billion of deposits and more than $40 billion of assets. It provides financing, leasing and advisory services principally to middle market companies across more than 30 industries primarily in North America, and equipment financing and leasing solutions to the transportation sector. It also offers products and services to consumers through its Internet bank franchise and a network of retail branches in Southern California, operating as OneWest Bank, a division of CIT Bank, N.A. cit.com.

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