Where will you be shopping during the upcoming holidays? What, when, and how are you likely to check off the items on your shopping list? The predictions of retail analysts are in.
Overall holiday sales will rise modestly. Deloitte’s 2012 holidays forecast calls for a retail sales increase of 3.5% to 4% over last season. Total holiday sales are expected to reach $920 to $925 billion. Those are huge numbers, but the anticipated increase won’t be as strong as that of 2011, when holiday sales rose 5.9% over the prior holiday season.
“Non-store” sales will rise impressively. Online sales, as well as purchases made via catalogs and interactive TV, are considered sales of the “non-store” variety—and they’re expected to soar this holiday season. Deloitte analysts say such sales will rise 15% to 17%, mostly due to online shopping, which should account for three-quarters of all non-store purchases. Likewise, a report from eMarketer estimates that holiday retail e-commerce will hit $54.5 billion, a rise of nearly 17% over last year. Last year, online retail boasted a 15% to 16% rise in sales, and 2012 should be the fourth year in a row online holiday sales increase year-over-year in the mid- to high teens. Even so, the vast majority of purchases will still be made in-store.
Luxury spending will be hot. According to a Booz & Co. survey, 53% of consumers plan on purchasing at least one luxury item this holiday season, up from 41% last year. This is good news for upscale retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Nieman Marcus, which reported booming sales during the 2011 holidays.
Interest in electronics, Black Friday may fade. As “some demographic groups are approaching high-tech saturation,” Booz & Co. analysts say that fewer consumers are putting electronics at the top of their holiday wish lists. Overall, 62% did not have consumer electronics items atop their lists, most likely because they’re already swimming in fairly new electronics. Also, “Consumers are increasingly viewing Black Friday as irrelevant,” according to the Booz & Co. report. “They start looking earlier and buying later, and are moving online. As a result, retailers are discounting even earlier, seeking to convert these early shoppers.” Then again, surveys were released last year indicating a decreasing interest in Black Friday shopping, and the weekend wound up being a blockbuster for retail sales.
Amazon will be in the thick of the fight for consumer dollars. Last year, Amazon.com threw down the gauntlet early and often in the competition to woo shoppers, announcing “Black Friday” deals 24 days before Black Friday and launching an “evil” app promotion that encouraged consumers to engage in showrooming—browsing for items in a physical store, before ultimately buying them at Amazon. More of the same is expected this year, especially because primarily brick-and-mortar retailers have already demonstrated a willingness to take the fight directly to Amazon, rather than just reacting to Amazon’s latest assault. Target has not only introduced a series of initiatives to battle against showrooming, it has also stopped selling Amazon’s Kindle in stores.
Walmart recently also announced it would stop selling Kindles. “Wal-Mart probably doesn’t sell many Kindle units, but they don’t want to become a showroom for Amazon, who they are fighting tooth and nail with on almost all their other products,” Brian Walker, a Forrester Research analyst, told the Wall Street Journal.
Retailers will assume showrooming is taking place—and act accordingly. Even as they try to limit the damage to sales caused by showrooming, stores are more likely to embrace the near-ubiquitous practice, and to try to convince showrooming shoppers into making purchases on the spot. “Retailers that welcome the smartphone shopper in their stores with mobile applications and wi-fi access — rather than fear the showrooming effect — can be better positioned to accelerate their in-store sales this holiday season,” said Deloitte executive Alison Paul.
What Booz & Co. calls “multichannel shopping”—”research online but buy in store, buy online for pickup in store,” research in-store but buy online, and so forth—will be very common. It’ll be up to retailers to snag sales every which way they can.
Look for more gift cards, apparel sales, regifting. Booz & Co. researchers expect a 4% rise in gift card sales, as well as increases in consumer purchases of clothing, and downloadable gifts such as e-books, iTunes, and digital movies—no advanced shopping or wrapping necessary. Also, it appears as if regifting (always a controversial and potentially offensive practice) is becoming more acceptable: 32% of shoppers say it’s OK, compared to 25% last year.