Inside This Issue - Opinion
Holiday trends reflect broader retail changes
November 14th, 2011
The holiday selling season has gotten off to a fast start, with a number of mass market retailers already unveiling special initiatives designed to bring more shoppers into their stores.
On the days surrounding Halloween, Target announced that, for the first time, it will welcome consumers at midnight on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and that some outlets will be open for limited hours on the holiday itself. Kmart is enhancing benefits for holders of credit cards issued by Sears, its corporate parent, under the “Shop Your Way Rewards” program, and Walmart offered customers early savings on electronics and toys with a “Super Saturday” event at the start of November.
It’s clear that competition will be fierce. How it plays out will help shape the retail landscape in an economic environment that remains highly problematic.
Executives at the National Retail Federation recently offered insights into factors that they believe will influence how the industry fares. While predicting that retail sales will advance 2.8% during the holidays to $466 billion, NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay and vice president Ellen Davis identified the top 10 trends that will impact the business.
Three of them stand out as particularly notable, because they transcend the vagaries of consumer sentiment and point to fundamental shifts in the marketplace. NRF’s annual holiday survey found that the average consumer plans to do more than a third of her holiday shopping online, and the consumer who taps multiple channels will spend 22% more this year than other shoppers.
Use of smartphones and tablet computers is another changing factor in the retail equation. Half of smartphone owners will utilize the devices for shopping, primarily to conduct research and check prices, the study showed, and 70% of people with access to tablets plan to shop on the devices.
Like their customers, retailers are becoming more savvy. Shay and Davis indicated that better inventory management will be evident this holiday season, ameliorating out-of-stocks and enabling merchants to improve their financial performance.
The game is changing. Empowered by a wealth of options and the tools to compare them, consumers are demanding more than ever from the merchants they patronize. The future belongs to retailers that can respond to the new dynamics.