Washington--The growing importance of mobile in retail and consumers’
desire for something more than just the best price were two of the
holiday season trends outlined by the National Retail Federation (NRF).
In a conference call held Tuesday afternoon, NRF President and CEO
Matthew Shay and Vice President Ellen Davis gave a rundown on the top 10
trends of the 2011 holiday season, trends derived from the NRF’s first
holiday spending survey and economic analysis.
Here they are.
1. Slow and steady wins the race. A number of
organizations, including the NRF, have forecasted moderate sales growth
for the holiday season (the NRF said 3 percent). That is still what
retailers should expect despite recent positive developments, such as a
higher-than-expected gross domestic product.
The NRF said it isn’t upgrading its forecast as ongoing uncertainty and high unemployment continue to weigh on consumers’ minds.
2. All shoppers are not created equal. While the
holiday may be average for some brick-and-mortar stores, nearly seven
out of 10 online retailers expect their sales to growth at least 15
percent, according to Shop.org’s e-holiday study. In addition, the NRF’s
survey shows that 36 percent of consumers plan to use the Internet to
at least research purchases, the highest percentage in the survey’s
“There is no question the multi-channel shopper represents the biggest opportunity for retailers,” Davis said.
3. And...? This trend, compared to the new Coke Zero commercials,
represents the mindset of today’s shoppers, who believe that low prices
are a given and shop with a “price-plus” mentality. They are looking
for what else retailers offer besides price. Excellent customer service
and superior quality are two examples.
Retailers need to add value, whether that is by offering special
deals, such as layaway, or tying product purchases to a good cause.
4. Now you see it, now you don’t. Inventory levels
are very lean this year as retailers have become more efficient at
managing their stock. They also are able to place orders later in the
season in order to better gauge consumer sentiment.
This trend enables retailers to sell popular products at a profit.
5. You better shop around. It is absolutely not the
case that consumers shop at fewer stores in a down economy. By contrast,
today’s consumers are maniacal about finding the best prices.
Shoppers also don’t discriminate against stores based on product.
They have no problem buying a toy at the grocery store or a stocking
stuffer at the wholesale club.
6. Thank you sir, may I have another?
Self-purchasing will be big this holiday season with six in 10 shoppers
stating they have set aside money to buy for themselves. The average
amount budgeted for from-me, to-me gifts has hit an all-time high at
$130, up 16 percent from last year’s $112.
“Retailers have done a great job telling customers that the holiday
season is the time to buy merchandise at the best price,” Davis said,
pointing to clothing retailer J. Crew’s web site as an example.
7. This year’s gift-giving theme: “everyday appropriate.” In the past couple of years, shoppers were focused on necessities but this year people will be more willing to splurge.
Davis said “everyday appropriate” can include jewelry as long as it
is something, such as a watch, that can be worn on a regular basis and
isn’t the type of piece that’s stashed away in a box for the majority of
8. The early bird catches the worm but the night owl catches the sale.
Black Friday, once a mid-morning to early-afternoon activity, will keep
starting earlier. Last year, 24 percent of shoppers hit stores before 4
a.m. and a number of stores actually were open on Thanksgiving Day.
This year, Macy’s, Kohl’s and Target already have announced that they will be opening at midnight on Thanksgiving night.
9. Free shipping isn’t free ... but it works.
So-called “free” shipping isn’t without cost to retailers, but it is
something consumers have come to expect, just as they expect low prices.
According to Shop.org, a record 93 percent of online retailers plan
to offer free shipping this holiday season, and 36 percent of consumers
are willing to spend more online if the shipping is free.
10. Yes, Virginia, there is an app for that. Mobile will play a huge role in the holiday season. However, retailers need to understand that consumers use smartphones and tablet computers, such as the iPad, differently.
Consumers carry their smartphones everywhere, and 50 percent will use
them in some capacity for holiday shopping this season, such as to find
store hours and locations, check stock and compare prices. According to
the NRF, though, only 16 percent of people will buy from their mobile
On the other hand, tablet computers more often are utilized at home. A
total of 70 percent of consumers will use them in some capacity for
holiday shopping, and they are two times more likely to make a purchase
from a tablet computer than from a smartphone.