Holiday Sales to Grow 4 Percent

Sometimes life isn’t fair—especially for retailers during the holiday season.

“Retailers will need to work longer and harder if they want their share of a projected individual $855 for the 2014 holiday spend,” says Robert Passikoff, founder and president of research consultancy Brand Keys Inc.

The $855 is about 4% higher than last year, according to Brand Keys’ 20th annual national holiday shopping survey, which polled 16,000 consumers.

“Supercharged by increased mobile outreach, consumer planning, and [an] increased numbers of retailer mobile apps, traditional retailers will be going to work earlier, and working harder, to engage consumers this season,” Passikoff says.

To make matters more hectic for retailers, many consumers are already behind the eight ball with regards to holiday shopping because Black Friday commenced earlier this year. Store checks by Brand Keys reveal that retailers were already displaying holiday greeting cards, gift-wrap, and Christmas-themed gifts in October. In addition, Amazon and Walmart kicked off their Christmas discounts on November 1.

“[R]etailers had Christmas candy leitmotifs right next to the bat wing and witches-on-broomsticks packaged candy,” Passikoff says.

Although more than half (54%) of consumers plan on starting their holiday shopping this November, only 25% of consumers—10% fewer than last year—are going to wait until Black Friday.

“As soon as they put away their Halloween costumes, our customers start prepping for Thanksgiving, buying Christmas trees, and shopping for gifts,” says Walmart’s Chief Merchandising Officer Duncan MacNaughton.

And even though 98% of respondents plan on buying holiday gifts online this year, brick-and-mortar shops, as well as catalogs, still have a place in their hearts. The figures below represent the percent of consumers who plan on shopping via the following channels:

  • Discount department stores, 96%, +2% change from 2013
  • Traditional department stores, 78%, +2% from 2013
  • Specialty and apparel stores, 40%, -5% from 2013
  • Catalogs, 25%, -50% from 2013

Gift cards, according to the survey, are hot commodities, too; 95% of respondents plan to purchase at least one this year. Other areas of spending this year include:

  • Clothing and accessories: 78%
  • Electronics, phones, and computers: 51%
  • Personal care products/spa: 33%
  • Jewelry: 20%
  • Food and wine: 20%
  • Home décor: 7%

Due to the fight for consumer dollars, specialty shops and department stores are going to have to be more aggressive with their deals and “won’t be able to avoid it,” according to Passikoff. One way to stand out, he adds, is through mobile.

“Retailers that can integrate the store experience with their mobile outreach will likely find it to be a winning combination,” he said. “Just much earlier this year.” 

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