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Department Store Visits in Puerto Rico Remain Steady

By on June 18, 2017

With the recent news on the fate of department stores in the U.S.—many are struggling as more shoppers are going online—whether they will thrive in this new economy is uncertain. However, Puerto Rican residents are still visiting department stores with almost the same frequency as they have been in the past five years, according to this week’s Gaither International survey.

The incidence for having visited in the “past seven days” has remained at 11% since 2013, with just a small uptick to 12% in 2016, and has remained at that number so far in 2017. “But this incidence [rate] is in no way an indication of whether…people are making purchases when they visit those stores,” said Melanie Dederick, a client service associate at Gaither International.

In this Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017, file photo, shoppers walk into a Sears store. (Gene J. Puskar, File/AP)

In Puerto Rico, Sears is the top department store chain being visited with an incidence of 61% among those who reported having visited a department store in the past seven days, followed by JC Penney with 56% and Macy’s with 15%. These percentages total more than 100% because there is duplicity among the stores, meaning some respondents may have visited more than one store in the past seven days. While Macy’s is more popular in the United States, it ranks third in terms of visitors in Puerto Rico, “but keep in mind that Macy’s has fewer stores in Puerto Rico than its competitors, so this influences its overall visit incidence,” Dederick said.

Unsurprisingly, this category’s visit incidence normally spikes up during the holiday season, for example, starting in October 2016 and peaking to 14% in December 2016, then decreasing from January through February 2017 back to 11%, she indicated.

Throughout the years, Sears has maintained a very stable visit incidence, fluctuating from 63% to 61%, while JC Penney’s incidence has slowly grown from 47% in 2013 to 50% in 2016 and is currently at 57% for the year. On the other hand, Macy’s started out at 11% then jumped suddenly to 16% in 2016 and so far in 2017 has remained at 15%.

In terms of who is visiting these stores, the visit incidence is only slightly higher among women (13%) than men (11%). However, this category corresponds mainly to higher socioeconomic profiles, as the visit incidence among those in the High tier is a high 26%. While for the Middle tier the incidence is 17%, the Middle-Low tier is at 12% and the Low Tier is only 5%. Finally, in terms of age groups, the incidence of those 18 and younger is 8%; while among those 18-34 years old, the incidence is 12%, which is similar to the general incidence of the category; 13% among the 35 to 54 age segment and 12% for those ages 55 and older.

“This just goes to show that department stores are still receiving foot traffic in Puerto Rico. It’s a matter of how they can capture these visitors’ attention so they will wish to stay and shop, and what department stores can do to remain attractive to the modern-day consumer in this economy,” Dederick said. For many, that often means sales and specials, especially for those who have a store credit card.

The results are from Gaither International’s Media Brand Profiles tracking survey, which interviews more than 80 people daily from among a representative sample of Puerto Rico’s population 12 years and older.

According to stateside media reports, “brick and mortar” department stores are seeing a drop in mall traffic as more and more shoppers go online for home delivery. For example, in recent months some well-known chains such as Sears, Kmart and JC Penney have announced hundreds of store closures.

The national newspaper USA Today also reported that sales at department stores in the U.S. dropped by a whopping 37.8% to $156.9 billion from 2006 to 2016, according to retail trade publication The Robin Report.

Polling is conducted by Gaither International and results are reported exclusively by Caribbean Business.

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