One in four shoppers would trust robots to buy their gifts given a choice
Three-quarters (76 per cent) of British shoppers have no plans to change their Christmas shopping habits this year to ‘buy British’, despite the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. One in four (23 per cent), however, said they are now more likely to buy UK merchandise over gifts sold by non UK companies, given the choice. The consumer survey commissioned by SAS also found that the 18- to 29-year-old age group is the most patriotic, with one-third more likely to buy UK merchandise than any other age groups.
Retailers can be assured that consumer spending should be in line with last year this Christmas, regardless of uncertainty over the value of the pound in recent months. Seven in 10 plan to spend around the same as last year, with 14 per cent looking to spend more and 16 per cent less. The biggest spenders are the 18- to 29-year-olds, with a quarter planning to spend more than £500 on gifts, compared to the majority of the population (61 per cent) that plan to spend somewhere between £100 and £500.
In line with last year, as many as one in five British consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, making it more popular than the week before Christmas (17 per cent) and Cyber Monday (11 per cent). Shopping on Christmas Eve (5 per cent) and Boxing Day (3 per cent) have fallen completely out of favour with British consumers.
Black Friday shopping is most popular with the young: 42 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds will be parting with their cash that day, with the percentage falling steadily among older age groups to just 12 per cent for those aged 60-69 and four per cent for the over 70s.
One in four would let robots buy their gifts
The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic assistance continue to transform the ecommerce market. One in four (23 per cent) shoppers would happily let robots choose, purchase and deliver Christmas gifts to their friends and family, given the choice. This figure rises to 51 per cent for 18- to 29-year-olds, declining steadily to just 12 per cent for over 70s.
“This is an exciting time for retailers as we see for the first time a real transformation driven by AI and robotics,” said Andrew Fowkes, Head of Retail Centre of Excellence, SAS UK & Ireland. “Data analytics holds the key for retailers to gain competitive advantage. It provides accurate insights for store owners to make smarter decisions, whether it’s product recommendations or forecasting their stock inventory. Shoppers will also value the convenience and time saving benefits, improving brand loyalty beyond the holiday season.”
With robots set to play a part in the future of consumer buying patterns, 17 per cent of shoppers are already using mobile payment systems, such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Wallet, to buy gifts.
The power of suggestion – retailers need to get personal
Smart retailers are already taking advantage of the consumer data they currently hold to make faster, more informed recommendations to shoppers. Four in 10 (37 per cent) of consumers get gift ideas from retailers’ suggestions, and nearly half (49 per cent) regularly or sometimes make a purchase following a retailer’s suggestion.
However, the vast majority (86 per cent) of shoppers say these suggestions are still only moderately or not at all accurate to their current lifestyle or shopping preference.
“Product recommendations are essential for retailers and can significantly improve conversion in today’s competitive market, both online and in-store. Yet time and time again, many fail to make use of the data available to them to make informed choices,” Fowkes added. “What this demonstrates is the importance of personalisation: well targeted offers are vital if retailers are to get their share of the Christmas wallet.”
Don’t run out of stock – or customers will switch
With the economy the biggest influencer on the Christmas wallet, getting a bargain is ranked as the most important factor, followed by brand loyalty and the returns policy. However, retailers should be wary of fickle shoppers. When a desired item is out of stock online, as many as two-thirds of consumers (67 per cent) will go to a different website to find the gift they want.
“Stock availability and returns policy are crucial for retailers in the Christmas shopping season,” said Fowkes. “Most retailers have started preparing for this critical trading quarter as far as a year in advance, but even the best laid plans often go awry. Knowing what consumers want to buy and being able to offer the right product at a fair price will set a retailer apart from its competitors. This is even more important on a single trading day, such as Black Friday, when consumers rush to ecommerce stores for the best bargains.”
The majority of people (65 per cent) would shop online via PC, primarily to avoid long queues and busy traffic on the high street. In comparison, 59 per cent of consumers prefer to buy in-store, while 17 per cent choose to shop online via tablet and 16 per cent opt for online shopping via the mobile. Retailers should also prepare for a spike in web and mobile traffic on busy days like Black Friday and take steps to prevent their websites or mobile apps crashing due to high demand.
Books, music and cosmetics are top stocking fillers this year
Books, music and movies, along with cosmetics and fragrances, are what most shoppers (50 per cent) plan to give this year. This is followed by toys and games (47 per cent) and money (45 per cent). Other popular present ideas include gift cards (43 per cent), apparel and accessories (41 per cent), food and beverage (39 per cent), household goods (22 per cent), consumer electronics (17 per cent), homemade gifts and baked goods (17 per cent) and sporting goods (13 per cent).
For more details on consumer attitudes and shopping behaviour at Christmas, download the SAS holiday shopper survey.
Robinhood plans confidential IPO filing as soon as March – Bloomberg News
(Reuters) – Online brokerage Robinhood, at the centre of this year’s retail trading frenzy, is planning to file confidentially for an initial public offering as soon as March, Bloomberg News reported late on Friday, citing sources.
The California-based brokerage has held talks in the past week with underwriters about moving forward with a filing within weeks, Bloomberg said.
Robinhood did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reuters reported last year that Robinhood has picked Goldman Sachs Group Inc to lead preparations for an initial public offering which could value it at more than $20 billion.
Robinhood was at the heart of a mania that gripped retail investors in late January following calls on Reddit thread WallStreetBets to trade certain stocks that were being heavily shorted by hedge funds.
The online brokerage tapped around $3.4 billion in funding after its finances were strained due to the massive trading in shares of companies such as GameStop Corp.
(Reporting by Ann Maria Shibu in Bengaluru; editing by Richard Pullin)
Analysis: How idled car factories super-charged a push for U.S. chip subsidies
By Stephen Nellis
(Reuters) – When President Joe Biden on Wednesday stood at a lectern holding a microchip and pledged to support $37 billion in federal subsidies for American semiconductor manufacturing, it marked a political breakthrough that happened much more quickly than industry insiders had expected.
For years, chip industry executives and U.S. government officials have been concerned about the slow drift of costly chip factories to Taiwan and Korea. While major American companies such as Qualcomm Inc and Nvidia Corp dominate their fields, they depend on factories abroad to build the chips they design.
As tensions with China heated up last year, U.S. lawmakers authorized manufacturing subsidies as part of an annual military spending bill due to concerns that depending on foreign factories for advanced chips posed national security risks. Yet funding for the subsidies was not guaranteed.
Then came the auto-chip crunch. Ford Motor Co said a lack of chips could slash a fifth of its first-quarter production and General Motors Co cut output across North America.
“It brings home very clearly the message that the semiconductor is really a critical component in a lot of the end products we take for granted,” said Mike Rosa, head of strategic and technical marketing for a group within semiconductor manufacturing toolmaker Applied Materials Inc that sells tools to automotive chip factories.
Within weeks, automakers joined chip companies calling for chip factory subsidies, and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Biden both pledged to fight for funding.
Industry backers now aim to be part of a package of legislation to counter China that Schumer hopes to bring to the Senate floor this spring. Still, all agree it will do little to solve the immediate auto-chip problem.
Headlines about idled car plants resonated with the public that had shrugged off abstract warnings in the past, said Jim Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Lawmakers, already worried that a promised infrastructure bill will not materialize this year, decided to push for quick solution.
“Nobody wants to be seen as soft on China. No one wants to tell the Ford workers in their district, ‘Sorry, can’t help,'” Lewis said. “It was one of those moments where everything aligned.”
The package includes matching funds for state and local chip-plant subsidies, a provision likely to heat up competition among states including Texas and Arizona to host big new chip plants that can cost as much as $20 billion.
The subsidies could benefit a factory in Arizona proposed by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and one in Texas eyed by Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, even though those factories would be geared toward high-end chips for smartphones and laptops, rather than simpler auto chips. And those factories would not come on line until 2023 or 2024, according to plans disclosed by the companies, the world’s two largest chip manufacturers.
In the longer term, a raft of U.S. companies are also poised to benefit. Any chipmakers that build factories will source many tools from American companies such as Applied, Lam Research Corp and KLA Corp.
Intel Corp, Micron Technology Inc and GlobalFoundries – which already have U.S. factory networks – will also likely benefit.
Smaller, specialty chip factories also could benefit.
“The recent chip shortage in the automotive industry has highlighted the need to strengthen the microelectronics supply chain in the U.S.,” said Thomas Sonderman, chief executive of SkyWater Technology, a Minnesota-based chipmaker that makes automotive and defense chips. “We believe that SkyWater is uniquely positioned due to our differentiated business model and status as a U.S.- owned and U.S.- operated pure play semiconductor contract manufacturer.”
Even with subsidies, the U.S. companies still must compete with low-cost Asian vendors over the long run, and the immediate auto chip troubles will probably persist.
Surya Iyer, a vice president at Minnesota-based Polar Semiconductor, which makes chips for automakers, said his factory is booked beyond capacity and has started to speed some orders up while slowing others down, to meet automakers’ needs as best it can.
“We are expecting this level of demand to continue at least for the next 12 months, maybe even longer,” he said.
(This story has been refiled to add attribution to quote in paragraph 9, add dropped words in paragraphs 10 and 17)
(Reporting by Stephen Nellis and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco and Alexandra Alper in Washington. Editing by Jonathan Weber and David Gregorio)
Atlantia disappointed with CDP bid for unit, continues talks
By Francesca Landini and Stephen Jewkes
MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s Atlantia said on Friday an offer by a consortium of investors led by state lender CDP for its 88% stake in Autostrade per l’Italia fell short of the mark and asked its top managers to see if the bid could be sweetened.
“The offer falls below expectations,” the Italian infrastructure group said in a statement, adding it had mandated the chief executive and the chairman to assess “the potential for the necessary substantial improvements” to the bid.
Italian state lender CDP, together with co-investors Macquarie and Blackstone, has presented a proposal valuing all of Autostrade per l’Italia at 9.1 billion euros ($11 billion).
The consortium also requested Atlantia guarantee up to 700 million euros in potential damage claims and another roughly 800 million euros for a pending legal case, making the bid less attractive than previously expected.
One source said the consortium estimated overall pending legal claims against Autostrade at 3 billion to 4 billion euros, adding the 700 million euro cap did not mean the amount would be detracted from the offer price from the start.
Earlier on Friday Atlantia’s minority investors TCI and Spinecap had called on Atlantia’s board to reject the offer, saying it undervalued the asset.
“No deal is better than a bad deal, especially a bad deal and a wrong price,” TCI Advisory Services partner Jonathan Amouyal said in a emailed comment to Reuters.
TCI, which holds an indirect stake of around 10% in Atlantia, repeated that the value for 100% of Autostrade should be no less than 12.5 billion euros.
The board will hold a further meeting in order to take a final decision on the offer in due time, Atlantia said.
The negotiations between Atlantia and the CDP-led consortium are part of an effort to end a political dispute over Autostrade’s motorway concession triggered by the collapse of a motorway bridge run by the unit.
(GRAPHIC – Atlantia share performance: https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/qzjpqggjdpx/image-1614331237501.png)
The bid expires on March 16, but the deadline could be extended in case Atlantia calls an extraordinary shareholders meeting (EGM) on the issue, according to one source with knowledge of the matter.
Shares in the group ended down 0,7%, after recovering some losses, as investors waited for the decision of the board.
Atlantia, which is controlled by the Benetton family, owns 88% of Autostrade, with Germany’s Allianz and funds DIF, EDF Invest and China’s Silk Road Fund holding the rest.
The group also kept open an alternative plan to demerge and sell its stake in Autostrade per l’Italia unit and called an EGM on March 29 to extend to end-July a deadline for offers for the demerged stake.
(Additional reporting by Stefano Bernabei, editing by Louise Heavens and Steve Orlofsky)
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