Sunday, January 15, 2012

What Christmas Shoppers and Retailers Might Expect

Black Friday shoppers at WalmartImage via Wikipedia

With the holiday season just around the corner, retailers in the United states are getting ready for a shopping season that is filled with uncertainty due to conflicting consumer financial reports and the changing patterns of American shoppers.

Recent reports from the National Retail Federation aren't exactly encouraging. While there will likely be an increase in holiday sales compared to last year's season, the increase will only be around 2.8 percent. Last year's holiday shopping season managed to produce a respectable and surprising 5.2 percent from the year before. Retailers that expected a similar performance this year may be in for a disappointment.

To make matters worse, holiday shoppers may also get a bit of a “sticker shock” this year. In 2008 and 2009, shoppers were treated to great prices due to high inventories once carried by hopeful retailers. During the last couple of years, stores have been forced to sell off large portions of their inventories at sharply reduced prices. Retailers have learned the lessons of the Great Recession, and they are now keeping lean inventories.

The lackluster American economy is also to blame for the grim forecast. The high unemployment and the weak demand from employers to hire new workers are two factors exacerbating the situation. A weak US dollar could also bring pain to clothing retailers this year, as expensive textiles may cause fashion stores to push their prices higher just in time for the holidays.

An annual consumer holiday shopping study released by Accenture, a respected global consulting firm, indicates that some consumers will be in a better position this year. High income shoppers will be the most benefited as stores are forced to reduce prices on high-ticket items.

Discount stores will now have to compete against traditional retailers in terms of pricing. Department stores have mostly refrained from offering price promotions this year, as many are waiting for the holiday shopping season to begin.

This year shoppers are expected to be more careful, controlled and fastidious over their holiday purchases. Shoppers are now more inclined to significantly research their potential purchases before heading off to the shopping malls or placing their online orders. Accenture believes that more shoppers are planning to use their smartphones to do price research and comparison shopping while physically at the stores.

As expected, the number of shoppers who plan to make more than half of their holiday purchases online has increased. After all, online social media platforms are already getting busy with pre-holiday season buzz. But the Accenture survey report has also uncovered an interesting fact surrounding holiday shopping: Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year, may be losing its charm.

The predawn madness at American shopping malls and big-box retailers has become a staple of consumer culture. But as much as customers want to save money, they may be growing weary of the theatrics that tend to go hand-in-hand with Black Friday. Less than half of the shoppers surveyed by Accenture plan to leave their homes at midnight to go shopping fore a large flat-screen television this year. Shoppers are now more likely to find bargains and free delivery offers than in previous years.

Post by Holly Adams, a writer for CouponCroc.co.uk, the best place to find discounts and savings on all of your online holiday shopping this year.

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