The Holidays are here again! The Season of Giving rings even more true this year as we return to a more “normal” environment after 2.5 years of pandemic. There is lots of pent-up demand for gathering and celebrating together. Traditionally, gift-giving is a significant part of the season, so I was out and about this weekend to witness first-hand how the Holiday Shopping Season kicked off. I have been doing this annually and reporting on my findings since my early years at the firm, back in 2007. You may recall that Consumer Spending accounts for roughly 70% of America’s Economy, so keeping apprised of trends within the consumer sector is essential.
Holiday spending for 2022 is expected to be healthy even in the face of inflation. The National Retail Federation forecasts that Holiday retail sales during November and December will grow between 6% and 8% over 2021 to between $942.6 Billion and $960.4 Billion. This would shatter the previous spending record from last year of $889.3 Billion.
Early reports from this past weekend indicate that it has been a strong start to the Holiday Shopping Season thus far. Americans spent a record $5.29 Billion online on Thanksgiving Day, up 2.9% over last year, according to Adobe Analytics. Online spending on Black Friday was hot with $9.12 Billion and spending continued to be strong over the weekend. Black Friday weekend analytics from Sensormatic also suggests strong in-store traffic was up 2.9% over last year.
This was an incredible amount of momentum going into today, Cyber Monday. Retailers are pushing online deals to capture more Dollars today. It is estimated that shoppers will spend between $11.2 Billion and $11.6 Billion on this Cyber Monday which would be a new record according to Adobe Analytics. There must be a lot of people on the “nice list” this year.
I hit the sales over the Holiday break for my traditional shopping adventure to get some first-hand data. The Holiday sales started earlier this year – well before Thanksgiving week. If you were like me, you already had a few people checked off your list before Black Friday. Sales appeared weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday as retailers vied for wallet share of consumers. Even a purist like me could not resist and started buying up sweaters, jackets and other winter essentials in early November. Still, I looked forward to the day after Thanksgiving as the traditional start to the Holiday Shopping Season.
As has been the case since the pandemic began, most stores were closed on Thanksgiving and set to open dark and early on Friday morning. After a Thanksgiving Day of family and eating I perused the circulars and set my alarm for 5:30am. My 10-year-old daughter asked to come along, so off we went Friday morning. Our first stop was Macy’s where my daughter was thrilled to be the first person in the store. There were just 4 shoppers waiting at 6am for the doors to be unlocked. The Black Friday sales at Macy’s had been underway for several days both in-store and online, so there was no rush or incentive really for shoppers to show up early on Friday except for tradition. We browsed some shoes and boots as well as homewares. The most popular items we saw being purchased were jackets and luggage. With unemployment very low, many retailers have not been able to hire sufficient holiday help. The National Retail Federation reported that there are thousands of unfilled retail jobs currently. In a likely response to lower staffing, Macy’s had rearranged the store, eliminating several smaller register stations and had one central checkout station open on each floor. Since there were so few shoppers, this was not an issue at 6am, but I wonder how this will pan out when shopper volume is higher. Macy’s is also making a push for a share of the toy market by utilizing the Toys R Us brand as a toy department in over 400 of its locations. Macy’s is leveraging the brand as well as its Geoffrey mascot. Sadly, no early-morning shoppers were interested in toys during our visit.
We rolled around the other side of the mall to Kohl’s at around 6:25am. There were more shoppers there, about 70 people by our estimated count. The store had been open since 5am. Kohl’s was working to lure in shoppers to the store by advertising some “flash sales” that would be happening in-store. Retailers know that if you can get someone in the door, they are more likely to grab some additional impulse items. Clothing and shoes were the popular zones at this retailer. Kohl’s also has a tie-in with Amazon. They are a return center and had a small section of Amazon merchandise like Echo dots and other electronics for sale. I was intrigued by this as it makes a compelling case for people to come into the store. Order online and pick-up in-store was also a theme here and there was a section of the salesfloor upstairs roped off and dedicated to this.
Target opened at 7am, so we headed over there next. They had quite a few cars in the lot at 6:50am and there were about 20 people waiting for the doors to open. It was very orderly when they did unlock. No rushing or running for deals like you would have seen 5 or 7 years ago. Electronics and toys were popular and we saw customers adding items to their cards in those departments. Books were on deep discount and that attracted some shoppers too. There was only 1 register open and 2 people in front of us when we checked out around 7:30am. This is a stark contrast to years past when I can recall waiting in a line 20 cart deep. After leaving Target, we headed home for breakfast and a little respite.
By 11am we were a party of 3 headed to the mall in Corte Madera. Quite a few shoppers were there by this time, filling about 80% of the lot. This Macy’s had a good number of shoppers and more register stations, each of which we saw had about 2-5 customers queued up. Shoes were a hot area of the store as well as menswear. Lots of deep discounts on sweaters and outerwear. We joined in the fray and snapped up some soft goods for the men in our lives.
The Apple store was jumping. They have really streamlined things at this store, and most people seemed to be shopping by appointment time slot. Known for few discounts, Apple was running a Holiday promo that if you buy an eligible product you get an Apple gift card to use later. Example, if you buy an iPhone you get a $50 gift card. Apple knows its customer base is loyal to the Apple ecosystem and keep coming back for more and more Apple products. The latest iPhone was being promoted in the window and my kids both have it on their list for Santa.
The Gap had good traffic and shoppers appeared drawn to brightly colored sweaters and hats and scarves on sale. Anchor store Nordstrom was a beacon for shoppers. Customers were plentiful and both men’s and women’s shoe departments were filled with customers who clearly did not mind missing the USA World Cup game in favor of discounts. Cosmetics and handbag sections were also popular at Nordstrom. There was also a corner section of Nordstrom devoted to online order pick-ups. The order online and pick-up in-store trend is popular not just at grocery stores but retailers of all sizes as well.
Unexpectedly we heard caroling and quickly searched out its origin. A quartet just inside of Anthropologie was serenading shoppers with the traditional favorites, complete with old-fashioned garb. A short walk later at the other end of the mall we got to greet Santa as he arrived at his workshop for the afternoon. What a treat to get us in the spirit before we wrapped up our shopping day!
Small Business Saturday was up the following day. By 9:45am we were at our local sporting goods store to get some basketball gear. There were a few other shoppers checking out hats and shoes. Next, we traveled down the street to Gamescape where Pokémon cards were popular (and on our list). Our local bookstore, Copperfield’s had a sliding scale discount for the weekend – the more you buy the more you save. An added bonus was a DIY wrapping station which we took advantage of – first gifts already wrapped!
Next, we traveled to San Anselmo for our annual spoiling of our dog at Dogville. We were the only shoppers in the small store, but they had a great display of holiday merchandise, and we filled our bag. Restaurants were full on Saturday morning as we popped into our favorite café Comforts for a few gift cards – maybe everyone was fueling up before shopping later in the day. The specialty olive oil press Amphora Nueva had a great sale going and we participated grabbing a bottle for our favorite chef. Of course, we wrapped up our weekend at my husband’s shop, Bananas at Large in San Rafael where guitars and electric drums were popular over the weekend.
This weekend was a festive and fun start to the Holiday Shopping Season. My biggest takeaways are these:
- Consumers still want to shop in-person but not necessarily at 6am.
- Retailers need to make a compelling reason for shoppers to get into stores.
- Holiday hiring has been a struggle – so you may experience longer waits at checkout stations.
- Online shopping continues to grow in popularity – this trend is irreversible.
- Buy online and pick-up in-store trend has accelerated, more and more stores are devoting square footage to this.
- Shopping small feels good and keeps you connected to your community.
- Expect your kids to complain a little but be easily won over by a cookie or 2 on a weekend shopping adventure.
I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and good start to the Holidays!