7 Days and Counting: Holiday Shoppers Wait for Discounts

In What's New, Industry News by Jeff Prine

Last Minute Holiday ShoppingChicago/New York—Snowstorms that hit much of the Midwest and Northeast last weekend may have hindered some holiday shopping, but consumers will be making up for that through Dec. 24 as procrastinators hit the stores.

Retail sales at general merchandise, apparel, furniture and other product retailers edged down 0.8% the week of Dec. 9 to 15, according to ShopperTrak, which analyzes retail shopping traffic. Retail in-store shopper traffic also fell last week by 19.9% compared to the same time period in 2012.

The snow effect was most pronounced on Saturday, Dec. 14, when both retail sales and shopper traffic fell. Compared to the same day last year, brick-and-mortar retail sales fell 5.4% while in-store shopper traffic fell 25.9%.

Super Saturday: Busiest Shopping Day?

“Last weekend’s extreme weather prevented many consumers from completing their holiday shopping,” said Bill Martin, ShopperTrak founder. “But those items remain on their shopping lists and we expect these individuals will add to the high levels of in-store shopper activity we usually see the weekend before Christmas.”

ShopperTrak expects that several of the days leading up to Christmas, including “Super Saturday”– Dec. 21–will be among the busiest shopping days of the holiday season.

“Only one weekend remains before Christmas for shoppers to check everything off their holiday lists,” said Martin. “Shoppers will plan and focus their store visits on getting items they want at the best values. It will be critical for retailers to provide the best experience for shoppers motivated to complete their holiday shopping – by adequately staffing for the surge in traffic and ensuring merchandise is stocked and easily accessible.”

Meanwhile, in its study of sales receipts last week from a wide range of retailers the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) reported today that sales were up 4.8% from the previous week despite the storms—and up 2% compared to the same week a year ago.

“The sequential weekly sales pace soared over the past week as consumers accelerated their rate of holiday-gift completion, which, as of Sunday (Dec. 15) stood at about two-thirds—an increase of 17 percentage points from the prior week,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC vice president of research and chief economist. “Despite the latest week’s improvement, there remains a bit of sluggishness in holiday sales and promotional activity has been stepped up over the last week. Since consumers are down to the wire with Christmas Day just about one-week away, they will need to step up their gift buying even more this coming week.”

According to The NPD Group Holiday Shop-O-Meter, consumers report they have completed 44% of their holiday shopping so far.

Special Hours, Special Savings

The 7-days till Christmas will be an even more crucial time for retailers to summon their best marketing efforts to attract procrastinators.

“With so much shopping left to do—more than half of shopping left to go—retailers still have opportunities. In order to beat the competition, it’s crunch time for retailers to pull out all the stops,” said Marshal Cohen chief industry analyst at NPD. “If they plan on getting that last surge of sales to come their way, they need to look hard and fast at their inventory levels and the depth of the promotions (discounts) they plan to offer. This year, consumers have proven they are motivated by the deal.”

Those deals will have to include substantial discounts—25% off isn’t going to cut it—and accessibility, Cohen said.

“Look for deals to be emailed, texted, shared and even on-air with special hours and special savings. Retailers will be looking to sell out (before Christmas) rather than sell off (after Christmas) when they are forced to post steeper discounts making their profits almost non-existent,” Cohen added.



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