Retailers Expect 2014’s Holiday Shopping Season to Pay Off

The early forecasts and projections show big expectations for this year’s holiday shopping season. Among the expectations is that major chains will be open for holiday sales even before the Thanksgiving turkey even hits the table.

Both the National Retail Federation and the International Council of Shopping Centers released projections that show a 4% increase or greater in holiday spending this year, compared with 3.1% in 2013.

Those forecasts are based on rosy projections when it comes to key economic indicators—gas prices are falling, consumer confidence is rising and the job market has been picking up pace, according to an Oct. 11 report in Barron’s.

“Christmas sales are going to be pretty darn good because gasoline prices have come down,” Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James, told Barron’s. “In particular, the drop in gas prices could boost spending by lower income consumers and bolster sales at discount stores like Wal-mart,” he said.

The Midnight leading into Black Friday is no longer the kickoff for holiday shopping season. Wal-Mart and its competitors are expected to open their doors as early as 8 AM on Thanksgiving morning, and remain open through at least Friday night, according to some unconfirmed reports cited in Consumer Affairs.

The impact: retailers could post huge numbers on a day when they would have had their doors closed in the past.

“From 2012 to 2013, I know comScore did a study that showed online Thanksgiving sales increased 21% and online Black Friday sales increased 15%,” Eric Jones of Jones Dengler Marketing told Consumer Affairs. “Expect the same increase or more this year. I’m thinking we may even see the first Thanksgiving Day with $1 Billion in sales.”

Macy’s, the first major retailer to officially announce its hours, said that it will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, far earlier than last year.

As for Black Friday, Jones is making two major predictions. Retailers will offer more deals online, but those promotions won’t eat into brick and mortar sales, driven by things like extended hours and more doorbusters. He expects Black Friday sales to rise 20% compared with last year.

“With the increase in mobile shopping and with people constantly glued to their phones, retailers know online deals is one surefire way to generate sales,” he said. “With that in mind, retailers are offering more sales online which in turn will lead to more total sales.”

Indeed, as brick and mortar stores open ever earlier and the Black Friday sales get longer and longer, online specials and discounts may precede Halloween this year, according to some forecasts.

So what’s the bottom line? National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz says: “In the grand scheme of things, consumers are in a much better place than they were this time last year, and the extra spending power could very well translate into solid holiday sales growth for retailers; however, shoppers will still be deliberate with their purchases, while hunting for hard-to-pass-up bargains.”

With more and more consumers using digital platforms to research prices and using mobile devices to do it in store while they’re shopping—or “web rooming”—data will become even more important in order to drive the one-to-one offers that will reach consumers through the holiday din and during a time of year when they’re bombarded with ads.

And it’s up to marketers to reach them at the right time, on the right platform, with the right message.

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