For the past 15 years I’ve used the back-to-school season as an early indication of how the holiday shopping season will unfold. Though not a tell-all, it is still a reliable way of determining the general psyche of consumers and the level of discount needed for them to be motivated.
In a recent study conducted by CivicScience, we asked consumers just what they dislike about holiday shopping. If retailers can eliminate some of the obstacles, perhaps they can capture more in-store shoppers and convert them to purchases as well. Even at this late stage of the game, there are still opportunities to have an impact.
I recently ventured to a local shopping mall with a group of NPD colleagues to check out the post-Thanksgiving retail scene.
Although the stores weren’t Black Friday-esque in terms of traffic, and no consumers had to squeeze their way through doors, the resemblance to Black Friday sales was rather uncanny. Discounts were deeper than expected and deals remained abundant, with many apparel stores offering 50 percent off the entire store, “buy one, get one free” promotions, and free gifts with select purchases.
We now know the answer to the big question asked by nearly everyone following the retail industry this holiday season: “How much of an impact did Thursday’s store openings have on Friday’s foot traffic?”
Judging by the large number of shoppers out today, there may be no losers, though the stores that opened on Thanksgiving may have a slight advantage over the others. Here, on the east coast, the stores are busy. Very busy. Consumers are buying and grabbing the best deals they can find. As expected, door busters and sales items haven’t lost their consumer appeal, and appear to drive a lot of traffic.
Black Friday 2014: welcome to the new holiday shopping paradigm – more hours, more days, more deals, and more ways to entice the consumer to spend earlier.
Compared to last holiday season, consumers this year reported that they are more optimistic about how the price of gas/oil will influence their holiday shopping plans. This year, 47 percent stated that these costs will have no impact on their budgets, up from 43 percent last year.*
Amidst all the talk about Black Friday sales, holiday deals, and retailer marketing, we should not overlook the influence that the price of gasoline has on consumers, which I discussed in an earlier blog. Given the national drop in gas prices, the story is quite positive this holiday season.
It’s shaping up to be a healthy but heavily promotional holiday, which means that retail revenue growth will be harder to come by. Retailers are trying to drive store momentum earlier and they will need to be very savvy when it comes to managing their promotions.
They also need to step back and determine how to use the Internet as a tool and not as a replacement for the in-store experience. It’s necessary to have consumers walk through the doors, and the advantages of store displays and merchandising are incomparable. Impulse shopping is a clear example of the influence this experience has on consumers. The percentage of impulse shopping purchases is nearly twice as high for in-store versus online. Retailers need traffic in their stores, and they need to master how online can work in harmony with in-store.
Here are my top retail expectations for this holiday season:
Halloween is around the corner, which nowadays means the holiday season is underway. As we step into the season, the absence of newness and innovation in fashion—the drivers of a healthy, robust market—means it’s going to be a price game again.
I’ve seen some stories popping up in the press that claim Black Friday is no big deal because it only represents a small percentage of shopping for the holiday … that only 20 percent of shoppers participate in Black Friday shopping.
This is no big deal? I beg to differ. Getting 20 percent of consumers into stores is a big deal. Not only are they shopping for friends and family, they’re also buying on impulse and self gifting, which is is a big part of the holiday shopping experience. Take big screen TV’s, for example. I can’t say that I’ve ever received a big screen television as a holiday gift, but I can say I interview a lot of shoppers waiting in those lines to get into the stores for those big screen TV doorbuster sales.
Those of us on the East Coast were buried this past weekend in a monumental December snowstorm leading some to fear that holiday sales would be interrupted. According to NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service, the regions impacted by the snow, New England and the Mid-Atlantic, accounted for 18 percent of sales for the first 10 months of the year. While this is a substantial amount of volume it’s not likely that a one or two day pause in holiday shopping will cause measurable impact on the final holiday sales volume, even when those two days are two of the busiest days holiday shopping days, the Saturday and Sunday before Christmas.