A recent forecast of a potential increase of 4.4% in U.S. holidays sales compared to last year, has a surprising twist. The same company, AlixPartners, that sees a stronger holiday season, also reports that nearly three-quarters of consumers say they are heading to brick and mortar stores to do most of their holiday shopping.
Additionally, this year’s survey also finds that the vast majority (88%) plan on at least visiting stores this holiday season.
However, the survey results also make it clear that retailers face a host of complex and demanding trends this holiday season, including some related to recent store closures around the country.
“Our survey suggests that companies won’t be facing anything like the so-called retail apocalypse this holiday season, but they certainly will be facing a difficult conundrum—how to deal with an unprecedented mix of increasingly complex channel, customer and competitive dynamics,” said Joel Bines, c-head of the AlixPartners’ retail practice.
“The winners in this environment will likely be those who truly master ‘clicks-and-bricks’ strategies, without short-shrifting the ‘bricks’ part,” Bines added. “ Also important is localizing assortments, marketing and promotions to match today’s fast-changing markets, including at the regional level and below. And last but not least, making the necessary efforts and investment to understand today’s customer.”
For instance, nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents in the survey say they’ve been personally affected by store closures—specifically, that a store they “visit frequently” has closed in the past 12 months.
Moreover, of that number, 20% are those earning $100,000 a year or more, the kind of high-earners most retailers yearn for. On the plus side, only 6% of all respondents say that if a store they frequently visit closed or closes, they’ll no longer make their purchase.
However, over a third (36%) say they would instead shop at a competitor—suggesting that while sales may not just evaporate, individual retailers may have a tough time hanging onto what they had before.
Meantime—and as well a reflection of increasing challenges retailers may face this holiday season—80% of those in the survey say they have conducted online research as part of their in-store shopping process, including from inside the store itself. That’s up from 62% in a similar AlixPartners survey in 2015. (The question wasn’t asked in last year’s survey.)
The Good News: More to Spend More this Season
On the good-news front, the survey finds that a whopping 84% of consumers say they expect to spend the same or more this holiday season, up 1 percentage point vs. last year’s results. In addition, an also-whopping 93% say they expect to start their holiday shopping at the same time as last year or earlier, and of those who expect to start shopping earlier, 42% expect to spend “somewhat” or “significantly” more than they did last year.
Other highlights of the survey include:
- 92% of respondents say they plan to use online sources to research their purchases during the holiday-shopping season
- Consumer electronics is the most online-researched retail category in the survey, with 38% of respondents saying they’ve conducted online research
- Apparel and footwear have the highest online sales penetration in the poll, with 37% of respondents saying they’ve made an online purchase