Online sales could set a record this year. The average person is expected to do nearly 40 percent of their holiday shopping online, according to a consumer survey by BIGinsight. About 31 percent say they’ll compare prices online.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, has long served as the traditional jump-start to the holiday season.
But not this year, retailers are kicking tradition to the curb as they adopt new strategies aimed at bringing more year-end dollars into their stores.
Walmart’s decision to open its doors at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving is creating a bit of a buzz among competing retailers. Sears also is opening at 8 p.m. and plans to remain open for 26 hours straight. Holiday deals for Sears’ online shoppers began Nov. 18. Toys R Us announced it will open its stores at 8 p.m.
Kmart stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day as usual. Target is opening at 9 p.m. Best Buy, Macy's and Kohl's are scheduled to open at midnight the same as last year. Target and other top retailers have not yet released their plans.
A number of Black Friday sales circulars already are available online – another departure from tradition. In year’s past, retailers carefully guarded their Black Friday advertising circulars. Special deals remained secret right up until the big day.
The internet changed all that. Black Friday websites sprang up that offered the public a look at circulars “leaked” in advance. Retailers have since given up on the secrecy and release circulars ahead of time as part of their marketing strategy.
As of Nov. 8, blackfriday.com had posted circulars from Walmart, Best Buy, Kmart, Sears, Dell computers, Ace Hardware, Bath and Body Works, Bealls, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Home Depot, Lowes, Radio Shack, Sam’s Club, Staples, Toys R Us and Walgreens – just to name a few.
Projections up slightly
Everyone is looking to get a piece of what experts say will be a conservative upswing in holiday spending this year. The National Retail Federation recently released projections for the 2012 season calling for a 4.1 percent increase in sales compared to 2011.
If the NRF’s estimate proves true, the 2012 holiday season will bring in $586.1 billion in retail sales.
“For some retailers, the holiday season can represent anywhere between 20 and 40 percent of annual sales,” the NRF said.
According to NRF’s holiday consumer spending survey of 8,899 people, conducted by BIGinsight Oct. 2-8, the average holiday shopper will spend $750 on gifts, décor, greeting cards and more, up slightly from the $741 spent last year.
"We’ve seen this pattern of cautious optimism all year and despite the challenges that still exist in our economy, it looks as if consumers are eager to celebrate with friends and family,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As the most promotional time of the year, retailers will continue to look for ways to stand out, specifically with attractive deals on toys, electronics and apparel, even well before the ‘official’ start of the holiday shopping season – Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”
Most people surveyed said they would spend the bulk of their holiday budget, $421.82, on family members, with another $75.13 for friends, $28.13 for pets and community members. Co-workers came in at the low-end at $23.48, the survey said.
Holiday shoppers also plan to spend about $100 on food and candy, $28.66 on greeting cards and $19.55 on flowers. Decorations will account for about $52 of holiday budgets with total spending projected to reach $6.9 billion.
More than half those surveyed, 52.3 percent, said the economy would affect how much they will spend – down 10 percent from 62.2 percent last year.
“More than half of Americans this holiday season will feel the impact of the economy and will compensate by doing what they’ve been doing for several years – looking for ways to cut any corners, comparative shop online and in stores more often, and even planning to travel less or not at all,” Shay said.
Just over 31 percent plan to comparison shop online with another 6 percent planning to compare prices using a mobile device. About 46 percent say they plan to look for sales.
To find the best prices, shoppers are buying early again this year, and an estimated 41 percent has already begun. Another 40 percent is expected to start shopping in November, and 16.2 percent will begin visiting stores and online merchants the first two weeks in December. A smaller number, about 3.5 percent, will wait until the last two weeks of the month.
About two-thirds of those surveyed said they plan to shop at discount stores and nearly 59 percent at department stores. Clothing stores come in next at 36 percent, followed by electronics stores at 32 percent and specialty stores at 16.7 percent. If the survey proves true, the local grocer can expect holiday purchases to be up 3 percent this year.
For nearly 37 percent, the most important factor in shopping destinations are sales and discounts, with another 16.1 percent drawn to the selection of merchandise and 13.7 percent who say quality is what counts the most.
Projections show that online sales could set a record this year with 5 percent more of those surveyed saying they plan to shop on the internet. The average person is expected to do nearly 40 percent of their shopping online.
Shop.org, NRF’s digital division, is forecasting that online holiday sales during the months of November and December will grow 12 percent to as much as $96 billion.
“Online retail has been a bright spot for years and we don’t expect that trend to change anytime soon, especially with the growth in mobile,” Shay said. “Aside from the convenience, shoppers look to the holiday season to take advantage of retailers’ increased digital offerings. In addition to enhancing the site experience, retailers have spent the year investing in optimizing their mobile and social platforms, just what holiday shoppers are looking for.”
Online retailers look to create a buzz on Cyber Monday to continue the shopping frenzy that starts on Black Friday weekend. Special sales, free shipping and shipping upgrades will light up the online world with most merchants continuing with some type of shopping incentive right up to Christmas Day.
Who says it is better to give than receive?
This year’s shoppers appear to be joining the retailers by turning their noses up at tradition and making plans to spend more to make their own holidays bright.
The NRF reports that six in 10 shoppers plan to spend an average of $140 on “self-gifting” this year - the most in the survey’s 10-year history.
Young adults, ages 18 to 24 seem most keen on the idea with nearly 72 percent saying they’ll spend an average of $159.62 on a gift for themselves. The big spenders, ages 25 to 34, plan to spend about $175 on self-gifts.
“It looks like young adults have the ‘one for you two for me’ mentality about the holiday season this year, which is surprising given that this is also the age group that typically doesn’t have the income or ability to splurge,” said BIGinsight Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “What isn’t surprising is that retailers’ holiday promotions continue to strike a chord with this age group, especially with promotions surrounding popular electronics and apparel items.”
Gift cards stay atop most wish lists
Almost 60 percent of those surveyed by BIGinsight said they would like a gift card as a holiday offering – the most ever in the survey’s history. About half said they wanted clothing, nearly 46 percent would like books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games, and more than one-third are asking for electronics or computer-related accessories. Almost 25 percent want jewelry, the most since 2008.
For holiday gift ideas, recipes and more, look for the Holiday Gift Guide inside the coming week’s newspapers and the e-Edition.