Ho Hum Holiday? Don’t Blame The Grinch!

The absence of new and exciting merchandise would be the biggest contributor to a sluggish growth number for holiday 2013.

Are you wondering just how true that statement is? Well, we put my theory to the test, and asked over 1,000 consumers in an NPD Group survey, powered by CivicScience, to answer the question, “How did you feel about the choices for gifts this holiday season?” Of those that did shop, 52 percent of them stated they felt ”there was nothing new and exciting”. Thirty-eight percent said “the assortment was just right”. Another 11 percent indicated “there were too many choices”. Think about that for a minute; 52 percent of those that shopped said the holiday choices were not new and exciting. How do you expect to drive holiday growth if you aren’t offering new or “exciting” products? Without getting consumers jazzed about what to buy for their loved ones, as well as for themselves, it makes for dull and tedious holiday shopping.

Not only did holiday promotions start weeks (yes, weeks) before Thanksgiving, many stores were also open for business on Thanksgiving Day. Unfortunately, the increase in the number of shopping days didn’t include an increase in the number of new products. Even those items that had some “fashion” changes began to look stale as shoppers saw the same merchandise throughout the holiday season, during repeat visits to stores and online retailers. After all, most consumers don’t shop and finish in one trip; they shop and browse, and return to buy later on. If they see the same merchandise over and over again, it becomes – dare I say it – boring. It’s no wonder why they expect the discounts to get bigger.

So what are the stores and manufacturers to do? One word: “Flow”. Develop a better flow in the holiday merchandise so that consumers can find new and fresh product throughout the holiday season. Flow in new and exciting merchandise that is unique and different from what was in high demand last year.

Many manufacturers tell me that the stores didn’t commit to buying new and innovative product, while many stores tell me the manufacturers didn’t have new and exciting merchandise. I’m not one to point fingers, so I’ll just say that both are to blame. Stores need to take a bit more risk. There are no guarantees in life (as we learned, even packages that were promised to be there “absolutely, positively overnight”, may not make it there in time), and there are no guarantees that all holiday merchandise will sell out. But one thing is for certain: if you bore the consumers, they won’t pay full price. Create an exciting merchandise mix, and even if you do sell out, it is better than having to sell off.

Stores need to request the new and innovative, and manufacturers need to deliver while educating retailers on the importance of those products. Start today, and work together in concert on the right balance of new and innovative products, along with the tried and true sure bets for the holiday. The reward of increased sales makes up for the loss of margin that comes with excess inventory. All you need to do is take the first step: “flow”. Time it right and make it right, and new and innovative merchandise will be the winning formula throughout 2014, and certainly for holiday 2014.

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