During July and August, department stores spent 9.3% more on television advertising than they did last year, from $226.7 million to $247.8 million in 2018, according to data from more than eight million smart TVs from TV ad measurement company iSpot.tv.
In the aggregate, department stores notched 25.6 billion TV device impressions in what iSpot.tv calls a "critical period," with a mixture of back-to-school, home delivery and lifestyle messaging, according to a report emailed to Retail Dive from iSpot.tv.
Department stores are working themselves out of their worst slump in years, though in part they're riding an economic wave that is lifting many retail boats.
Retail comp sales in general in the second quarter are up 4.2% year over year (4% excluding retail giant Walmart), the highest level since 2007, according to a Retail Metrics report emailed to Retail Dive, which noted that 19 retailers to date have reported negative Q2 comps, "down dramatically from Q1 when 38 chain[s] turned in negative same store sales and 1Q17 when 60 companies did so."
"This is likely as good as [it's] going to get for retailers on the same store sales growth front," Retail Metrics President Ken Perkins said in comments emailed to Retail Dive. "[Third quarter] comparisons are only modestly more difficult at 2% versus 1.4% in Q2 but ramp up to 3.3% in Q4."
For department stores, much of that is staked in e-commerce. They are outpacing wider retail in transacting 22% of their total sales online — compared with closer to 13% for the industry as a whole, according to a report on the sector emailed to Retail Dive from Moody's Investors Service. These shifts are crucial but pricey, as the retailers face steep investments in their supply chains — Moody's sees Nordstrom as the only one reaching an inflection point there — and in their mobile capabilities.
Helpful reforms aren't only in e-commerce, though. Department stores are "employing a range of strategies as they seek to satisfy customers spoiled for shopping choices," according to Moody's. Some are using big data to build new loyalty programs, which have become critical differentiators among stores.