Holiday Season Looks Brighter … Tougher




“Make a buck, make a buck. Even in Brooklyn it’s the same – don’t care what Christmas stands for, just make a buck, make a buck.” – Alfred, Macy Janitor, “Miracle on 34th Street,” 20th Century Fox, 1947
Predicting holiday spending is never easy; but that sure doesn’t stop the analysts, researchers and retailers. They’re all expecting big things of you and me this year.

Retailers are already planning ahead:
- Store owners have announced that they plan to hire more than 700,000 holiday workers…Target – 90,000, Macy’s – 80,000, Kohl’s 52,000, Wal-Mart – 50,000, Toys “R” Us – 45,000, the list goes on.
- Online retailers are tweaking, tuning their sites and checkout processes to keep your fingers busy, happy.
- Everyone is working to make sure their mobile/tablet apps, website and service personnel all work together smoothly, seamlessly.

It’s not that the global economy has improved so dramatically or that food and fuel are taking less of the family budget; but still … despite everything “they” threw at you, you’re still standing! Kris Kringle looked around and said, “Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind.” That’s probably why retailers across the board expect holiday sales to hit or exceed four percent this year. That doesn’t sound like much of a growth rate, but it’s higher than the average of 3.5 percent for November/ December for the past 10 years. Profits on those sales are going to be even tougher because consumers have gotten crafty.

Indispensible Shopping Tools – Mobile devices – tablets and smartphones – have become as indispensible to consumer shopping today as wallets and credit cards. Most people prefer using their iPad or other tablet because things just look better on the screen.

Shopping Apps
They have smartphones and tablets and are very good at using them. Best Buy – back in the day – complained that they were showcasing products for Amazon. People took the hint and downloaded/ practiced with every shopping app they could find. So now, it’s tough to go into a store and not see people using their smartphone and iPad. Rather than grousing about people using their mobile devices as Best Buy did back when they blamed sales/profit declines on being nothing but a showroom for Amazon, smart retailers are figuring out how to enhance the in-store shopping experience and keep the sale. A lot of them have developed their own apps to create appointments, pinpoint products and even access product reviews.

Comparison Shopping – Looking for a store, a product/service, product/service reviews, you name it …there’s an app for that. More importantly, consumers know how to use the apps to get the best price, product, service/support and overall value for their money. The growth in tablet shopping is obviously due to the increasing number of consumers who are purchasing tablets of all sizes. Tablet shopping is growing because let’s face it, the images look better on the device’s screen and content just looks better. Only our kids are satisfied with the stuff on their small smartphone screen.

Forrester Research said they wouldn’t be surprised to see the tablet sales volume double this holiday season. Retailers’ biggest fear is not that you’re going to use your tablet when shopping, but that you just don’t come in at all. Instead, you take your device, curl up on the couch and do all your shopping online. Multichannel shopping is increasingly popular where folks use various media to make single or a complete shopping cart of purchases. Again this year, more people will shop the web then buy at a store or buy online and pick up their purchase at the store or do all of their shopping with trusted etailers to take advantage of free shipping and other special offers.

Price Plus
The one point everyone in the retail/etail arena agrees with is that people increasingly shop for the best bargain/quality/service/support.

Every Day – While it may be wishful thinking for most people, there will always be those brave and daring folks who will camp out in front of their favorite store (families have divided up the chore) to ensure they get the best of whatever for the lowest possible opening gun price. But with the pressure to capture sales for the end of the year increasing, every day will be Black Friday for the budget-conscious consumer. Except for the die-hard, stand-in-line all night for the fun of it consumer, people – retailers and customers – are beginning to see Black Friday as irrelevant. Consumers start looking earlier and buying later, and are moving online. This year, the stores have to work harder to catch folks earlier and try to snag those people who wait till the last minute expecting to get those huge bargain deals. Susan got the idea when she said, “You mean it’s like, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’” According to Booz & Co, retailers and etailers have spent all year tuning their processes, procedures and systems to get their unfair share of the 4+ percent increase. This includes:
- Developing a seamless digital, physical experience using multichannel retailing so folks don’t feel they need to check with the competition
- “Buy-it-now” promotions to convert browsers into buyers
- Capture customer information as they browse and then ping them a day or two later on a promotion “too good to pass up”
- Use loyalty points to drive conversion – double points if you buy today, triple points if you place your order within 24 hours
- Redoing their return/fraud policies eliminating the hurdles to returning goods
- Beefing up, checking, rechecking online and mobile platforms for absolute best-case volumes because people will click away in the blink of an eye if the website is slow or apps crash
- Ensuring that online, on phone, in store staff are familiar with everything that is on the website so they can help already stressed consumers find the item quickly

Regifting
Pass it On – Rewrapping and “recycling” gifts you’ve received and never used is becoming increasingly acceptable by more and more people today. Just remember who gave you what last year.  Something that really surprised us about this was Booz & Co’s forecast that there is a “trend” of people regifting … you know, giving something you got last year and graciously giving it to someone else this year. Thirty-one percent of the folks (up from 25 percent) are thinking seriously about digging in the back of their closets to figure out who would really like/deserves that great, unused gift you couldn’t bring yourself to throw away or donate. Our only hope is that you’re looking at those bottles of Zin, Cab, Pino or Merlot … you know, something folks can really use between Christmas and New Year. But whether you regift something really neat, venture out to the stores or shop online at work (come on, you know you will) and at home; you’ll be part of the billions of people around the globe who figure what the heck, they survived the economy, and that counts for something.
That’s true of you and every person working in today’s customer-centric retail/etail organization. Of course, as Dennis Jacobe, Gallup Poll’s chief economist, did temper his optimism for the holidays by noting, “You have to be confident to spend, but because you’re confident doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll spend.” When you start planning your holiday gift list, just remember what Susan said, “I believe… I believe… It’s silly, but I believe.” After all … a year’s gone by and you’re still standing!

andym
About the author:
Andy has worked in front of and behind the TV camera and radio mike. Unlike most PR people he listens to and understands the consumer’s perspective on the actual use of products. He has written more than 100 articles in the business and trade press. During this time he has also addressed industry issues and technologies not as corporate wishlists but how they can be used by normal people. Unable to hold a regular 9-5 job, he has been a marketing and communications consultant for more than ...


  

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