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by Michael Haydock, Chief Scientist, GBS Retail Analytics Leader

Fashion Week attracts the biggest names in retail to spotlight their “must-have” essentials for the upcoming season. In New York this week, buzz was all around the vibrant colors, bold prints and military-inspired looks that top designers unveiled for their Fall 2012 collections.

But buyers and merchandise planners do not have to flock to runway shows to get insight into next season’s sales drivers. New technologies can analyze diverse consumer data to deliver highly accurate retail predictions and forecasts to do just this.

I produce analytics-based forecasts for several major industry categories to provide clients with insight into future consumer shopping trends. Sophisticated analytics can sift through a variety of internal (historical sales, variable costs) and external (unemployment rates, disposable incomes) data sources to make predictions regarding critical inventory and merchandising decisions.

Armed with these hyper-accurate forecasts, retailers can proactively structure planning and inventory efforts to better capture valuable consumer spend, ensure that the right product mix is in their stores and allocate the best use of advertisement dollars.

In a new forecast of Q1 U.S. retail sales that IBM is announcing today, stores are expected to rise across a broad spectrum of products – pointing to signs of increased consumer confidence in 2012. The most unexpected forecast finding is that men’s apparel is projected to see an eight percent surge — outpacing other categories such as women’s apparel, children’s apparel and home furnishings.

The IBM forecast is summarized in the chart below:

First Quarter 2012 Forecast (sales figures in millions of dollars):


Women’s Apparel
YTY quarterly % change










Men’s Apparel










Children’s Apparel










Home Furnishings










Health and Beauty










Taking a closer look behind the numbers, this means that men will be splurging to update their wardrobes – spending on everything from dress shirts and dress pants, to skinny ties and suspenders. This increase in sales reflects a growing trend: men are developing a taste for fashion – especially in business attire.

The IBM forecast also reveals the following noteworthy insights:

  • Footwear sales in 2011 are projected to be up 3.00% over 2010.  (Census figures are expected this month).  Attractive promotions and changing weather patterns may account for the jump in sales in the Fall 2011 run up to the Holiday shopping season.
  • Women’s apparel sales in 2011 sales are projected to be up 2.00% over 2010.  In 2011, sales patterns changed from the Christmas Holiday buying pattern observed in 2010 to a series of “mini-occasion” buying peaks for Valentine’s Day and Mothers Day, with a surge in post Back to School purchases.

Demonstrated to be accurate to 97.26 percent (the average across the multiple retail categories listed above), the IBM forecast relies on 22 years of historical data and sophisticated analytics software developed by IBM to evaluate both long-term trends and seasonal peaks. IBM consultants use these predictive techniques to help clients improve performance by addressing complex issues of supply and demand. These techniques also aid clientsin planning product mix and new store locations.

In producing the forecast, IBM uses economic data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau. The data is derived from a survey of retail store establishments.  These store establishments are a representative sample and are not inclusive of all industry activity in this category.

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[...] Public social media content was analyzed by IBM Cognos Consumer Insights, which assessed 168,330 online discussions from September 2011 to September 2012 across social platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Forums and News Sources and derived 54,234 High Value Snippets through a series of advanced filtration techniques for insight analysis. The IBM Social Sentiment Index helps companies tap into consumer desires and make more informed decisions by looking at unfiltered consumer attitudes and actions, distinguishing between sincerity and sarcasm, and even predicting trends. [...]

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[...] It’s encouraging to us all to see this growth which follows a strong 2011 holiday period where December online sales grew by 7.5 percent over 2010. The increase in sales reported by the Census Bureau can be attributed to a few trends, including an increase in men shopping, a topic recently discussed by IBM’s Michael Haydock in his article, “Why Men Will be Dressing Better in 2012.” [...]

Posted by: Good News for Retailers – Report Shows Increase in Sales | Smarter Commerce
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