NPD’s Cohen: “Holiday 2014 Better than Reported”

In Industry Experts, What's New by Marshal Cohen

Port Washington, NY—Holiday 2014 was better than reported. Black Friday and holiday sales are not the same as we remember from past years, so traditional measures and apples-to-apples comparisons will not accurately report true holiday sales performance anymore. The 2014 holiday season did just fine–it just looked a lot different.

Holiday Shopping DealsWe’re looking at a new breed of holiday.

While Black Friday might have paled compared to the prior years, the whole week did not. The whole story comes from looking at how the retailers changed their offerings and how consumers changed their purchases, and the shifts in when everything actually happened.

Holiday came in four waves this year. The first wave, the early part of holiday that traditionally starts on Black Friday, started for some retailers as early as November 1. That’s right, deals that lasted all through November were the best deals for some stores.

The second wave of holiday comes in the form of a lull that occurs after Thanksgiving and before the last 10 days of the season. Those last 10 days are crunch time, or the third wave, and much of that activity came later this year as more consumers started holiday shopping late, and delayed the completion of it. According to The NPD Group’s post-holiday survey, 47% of consumers stated that they hadn’t started or finished their holiday shopping as late as November 22, and almost half of holiday shoppers still had a lot of shopping to do with only 2 days to go.

The fourth wave is the post-holiday business, usually done as clearance sales, but this final wave has become much more important, and most reports ignore it when it comes to holiday recaps and results. More consumers are using gift cards and sale opportunities as a great way to shop. More and more business being done post-holiday means more and more success left to count post-holiday as well.

The big issue this year was the lack of newness and excitement, and consumers noticed – 70.5% percent of consumers surveyed stated they felt that the assortment in stores this year was either the same or less exciting than last year. That high of a response is scary to hear. Boring assortments do two major things; hinder impulse purchases, and cause the consumer to either put off shopping as long as they can or go the gift card route that pushes sales to post-holiday, the fourth wave.

The other big story this year was the love for shopping online. The vast majority of consumers historically preferred to shop in stores, but things changed big time this year. In NPD’s post-holiday survey, online was the preference of 25% of consumers, stores got 39% of the vote, and 37% indicated they shopped both online and in-store. Stores lost a lot of momentum this year; the impact of mobile, boring assortments, and online deals all contributed to taking the luster out of in-store shopping.

Holiday 2014 taught us a lot. In my next post, I’ll look at ways this holiday season demonstrates the dramatic changes needed in 2015 to make retail exciting and successful again.

Marshal Cohen, NPD Group: "Open-sell or caseline retail environments have to give way to means for consumers to touch, feel and try on merchandise."

Marshal Cohen is Chief Industry Analyst, The NPD Group, Inc. He is a nationally known expert on the retail industry and consumer behavior. He has followed retail trends for more than thirty years, both at NPD and as the head of leading retailers, as well as fashion and apparel companies.  Marshal is also the author of two books, Why Customers Do What They Do and more recently Buy Me! New Ways to Get Customers to Choose Your Product and Ignore the Rest.

In addition to his duties at NPD, Marshal is a guest professor at North Carolina State University, School of Textiles.  He is introducing students and faculty to techniques for analyzing and applying data. Marshal has also been a guest lecturer at Savannah College of Art and Design, the Fashion Institute of Technology – Fashion Marketing and Merchandising, and the Wharton School of Business – Jay H. Baker Retailing Initiative.


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