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Hay Group: Retailers cautiously optimistic about holiday sales


Philadelphia -- Nearly one-quarter (24%) of retailers expect a significant increase (5% or more) in year-over-year sales during the 2014 holiday season, while another 70% are predicting sales will be on par with the 2013 season, according to a survey by global management consultancy Hay Group.

The cautious optimism around sales is reflected in companies’ seasonal hiring plans. While most retailers (70%) plan to hire staff at 2013 levels, the emphasis has shifted from seasonal to permanent workers, with 24% of companies planning to hire more permanent staff in 2014, compared to just 13% last season.

Additionally, 59% of retailers said their omnichannel strategy has impacted the training they provide to their sales staff.

"Consumers now expect a seamless shopping experience across channels,” said Maryam Morse, national practice leader for Hay Group’s retail practice. “To respond to this demand, retailers must have well-trained and nimble in-store employees who can serve as true brand ambassadors, leading customers to the point-of-sale, regardless of where the product resides."

Many companies are shifting their holiday promotions earlier in the year. Fifty-three percent of retailers will begin promotions in either September or October this year.

Nearly half (47%) of retailers surveyed in 2014 have a clearly articulated omnichannel strategy, compared to only 14% in 2013. The majority of retailers (71%) will be relying, at least in part, on their mobile platform to help drive holiday sales.

“Retailers are stepping up to the omnichannel challenge this year in an effort to drive sales from what’s proving to be a very disciplined consumer,” said Craig Rowley, VP and global practice leader for Hay Group’s retail practice. “Even so, the 2014 holiday season is likely to be a testing ground for many large retailers as they try to get a better grasp on what today’s consumer is going to buy, where they’re going to buy it and how they want to receive it. Retailers who come out on top will be those with the flexibility to quickly adapt to customers’ needs across a variety of channels.”

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