Retail executives are putting a priority on having affordable products available for timely delivery this holiday season.
According to a recent Accenture survey of 150 U.S. retail executives, almost all respondents said that increased promotional activity(99%) and availability guarantees (98%) are part of their holiday sales plans.
Other steps the surveyed retail executives are taking to help support holiday sales include stockpiling goods to ensure supply (37%), deep discounting to offload surplus stock (35%), and re-optimizing pricing and promotions (32%).
However, many retailer respondents are having supply chain issues. More than one-third(35%) report an uplift in slow and late deliveries over the past six months. And around four in 10 (38%) report their company is experiencing a higher rate of returns over the past six months, rising to almost half (48%) of surveyed luxury item retailers and six in 10 sports retailers.
In response to growing returns, close to three in 10 (28%) retailer respondents are exploring a “just keep it” returns policy – where shoppers can keep some or all of their unwanted purchases.
Accenture also conducted a parallel consumer survey of more than 1,500 respondents about their holiday shopping plans and views. Notable statistics include:
Four in 10 consumer respondents expect fast and free delivery of online orders.
One in three (34%) surveyed consumers are looking to spread the cost of holiday shopping, and more than four in 10 (42%) are shopping as and when promotions and discounts are offered.
Close to half (45%) had already started holiday shopping in August, and a smaller group (16%) of “early bird” respondents started in early 2022 to take advantage of post-holiday sales and discounts.
“Traditionally, Black Friday has been a chance for retailers to maximize profits in the run up to the holidays, but as the relevance of stand-alone sales events continues to dwindle, retailers will need to strike a careful balance in offering promotions and discounts, while preserving incredibly tight profit margins,” said Jill Standish, global lead of Accenture’s retail practice. “In times like this — when prices are rising, and merchandise stock levels are fluctuating — consumers feel the volatility and are taking a long view of the gift-giving season to ensure they can spread the cost and enjoy the holiday celebrations.
“Alongside navigating rising costs of doing business, many retailers are entering the holidays with excess inventory they need to sell, which will come as welcome news to consumers in search of promotions and deals,” said Standish. “Retailers must pay close attention to data and analytics to identify areas that require increased marketing efforts, as well as targeted and highly customized offers to the different customer segments without eating into profits. This should include a dynamic marketing and promotions plan anchored around existing inventory and then adapted as the crucial trading season ebbs and flows.”
Accenture conducted both surveys in August and September 2022.