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Holiday Forecast: Will earlier Hanukkah fuel even bigger November sales?


October will be over in a flash, and with it, all eyes will be on the holiday season, which is measured from November 1 through December 31.

The 2015 retail calendar has several distinctions, as we saw Memorial Day fall on the earliest possible date and Labor Day on the latest possible date. This holiday season, there are 28 days between Thanksgiving (not counting the actual day) and Christmas, which is an average amount for the period separating the two holidays.

Based on ShopperTrak data, sales within the GAFO sector are projected to increase 2.4% during this period. GAFO represents sales at stores that sell merchandise normally sold in department stores.

To ensure a rewarding season for retailers, the experts at ShopperTrak recommend paying close attention to the following three critical trends:

Earlier Shopping

The shift toward earlier holiday shopping will continue this year. Last year, sales grew in November at the expense of December. Expect the split between the two months to continue to narrow.

ShopperTrak data found a higher proportion of sales versus traffic in the month of November, which illustrates an increased intent among shoppers to buy during this month. Additionally, the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Consumer Spending Survey found that the average holiday shopper had completed 52.9% of their shopping on or before December 10, 2014. This figure is up from 49.9% in 2013, and further demonstrates the shift toward earlier shopping.

This year, Hanukkah begins on Sunday, December 6, which is 10 days earlier than it did in 2014, and lasts through December 14. The shift could translate into an even stronger surge in November.

Major Shopping Days

The season’s top shopping days are of strong importance to retailers – even though 2014’s top performers seemed to generate only a slight impact versus prior years. Super Saturday (the Saturday before Christmas), which ranked #1, and Black Friday, which ranked #2, underperformed relative to expectations, with Super Saturday sales gaining 0.46% and Black Friday sales falling more than 7% when compared to the previous year.

While Black Friday and Super Saturday (which this year falls on December 19) still hold the top spots, shoppers appear less compelled by the value-based pricing associated with the two days and are responding more to sales and promotions that are available throughout the season. This outcome punctuates the declining importance of a single day within the holiday season and indicates shoppers’ willingness to participate in the 61-day extravaganza.

The Impact of Online

The shopper journey continues to evolve due to the influx of technology, and, as a result, we’ve seen online and offline blur into one experience. As the shift continues, shoppers increasingly leverage mobile technology to drive their purchases. According to Deloitte, “84% of visitors report using digital for shopping-related activities before or during their most recent trip to a store.”

More importantly, conversions increase 40% when customers use digital before and during shopping in-store, according to Deloitte.

This holiday season, retailers should consider using mobile engagement to incentivize shoppers to visit their physical stores, communicate and educate shoppers throughout their visits, and provide meaningful follow-up. Maintaining product inventory and a well-trained holiday staff will be key to complementing a shopper’s digital research and driving their purchases.

While several factors, including technology, continue to affect brick-and-mortar, in-store remains the preferred mode of purchase – as illustrated by a 2014 Deloitte calculation, which found that some 94% of all retail sales take place within the confines of a physical store. And, according to a 2014 PwC study, the top reasons consumers buy in-store include seeing and trying on merchandise prior to purchase and the immediacy of in-store buys.

Recognizing such purchase triggers, retailers must approach the holiday season with a holistic strategy that addresses inventory, staffing, merchandising, and ease of purchase. This will enable brands to better meet customer needs, triumph during the holiday, and carry success into 2016.

Kevin Kearns is chief revenue officer of ShopperTrak, a global provider of shopper insights and analytics.

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