Analyst: Holiday sales are out of balance

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Analyst: Holiday sales are out of balance

By Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group - 11/28/2017
Stores were certainly busier than last year, but from what I saw, Thanksgiving and Black Friday were a mixed bag this year. The early parts of both days were busy, but ongoing store traffic wasn’t stellar, and it wasn’t consistent from store to store, or mall to mall.

The latest results from NPD’s partner, CivicScience, show that the peak holiday shopping week had more of an impact this year than the last two years. More shoppers had done a little holiday shopping (26%) by Thanksgiving week this year than in prior years (24% in 2015, 23% in 2016), and this was a noticeable jump from 21& the week prior – in 2015 and 2016, this number didn’t change at all over the same two week period.

While Thanksgiving week and Black Friday proved to be more important this year, it’s clear the holiday season is just getting warmed up. Through the week ending the Sunday after Thanksgiving, 52% of shoppers hadn’t started their holiday shopping yet, which is ahead of 2016 results for the same week, and and line with 2015 results. As expected, holiday 2017 is shaping up to be less like last year, and more like two years ago, meaning last minute  procrastination will be less of a factor this year.

Despite the positive early momentum of this holiday season, 78% of shoppers still have most, if not all, of their holiday shopping ahead of them. This also aligns with what I saw and heard while roaming the stores and malls this weekend – much more of consumer purchasing was for themselves and less than normal actual gift shopping over Black Friday weekend. A number of shoppers told me they hadn’t shopped since the summer. Consumers are actually saving up their purchases and waiting for these discount holidays.

Extensive promotions have created an imbalance in shopping throughout the year. But the good news is that consumers are engaged in shopping and spending. Let’s see what happens once consumers are done getting what they want retail and start to engage in true holiday spending.