“Will Americans get started earlier or later this year on their Christmas shopping?” by Matthew Stern via Retail Wire

“Will Americans get started earlier or later this year on their Christmas shopping?” by Matthew Stern via Retail Wire

A Salesforce survey reported by Practical Ecommerce found that 37 percent of consumers anticipate starting to shop for the holidays early this year. According to that article, customers may shift their Christmas spending from the big seasonal shopping holidays (like Black Friday and Cyber Monday) back into October or earlier to avoid spending a lot of money all at once. 

On the other hand, Corie Barry, CEO of Best Buy, anticipates customers shopping later this holiday season than they have been in the previous years of the pandemic.

After an earnings report, Ms. Barry told reporters on a call that, whereas over the past two years customers shopped early due to concerns about stockouts, this year would be more like pre-pandemic holiday seasons with shopping throughout November and December, Bloomberg reported. Best Buy plans to maintain its promotional discounts through those months, as the chain anticipates a more value-conscious customer this Christmas due to inflation.

Last year surveys from RetailMeNot and AlixPartners both found U.S. consumers planning to shop earlier in the season for holiday gifts. The July 2021 RetailMeNot survey found that 19 percent of shoppers said they planned to begin their holiday shopping in August or earlier, 30 percent said they would shop earlier than in 2020 and 66 percent said they wanted to get their holiday shopping done as early as possible. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you think more consumers will shop earlier or later for holiday gifts this year than in recent years? Will promotional activity play a bigger role in driving traffic and sales this year than we’ve seen since the pandemic began?

Neil Saunders, Managing Director, GlobalData

I think holiday shopping will start earlier this year for a few reasons. First, consumers want to spread their budgets over a longer period of time. Second, consumers are keen to get online orders in quickly to prevent shopping delays and last minute hiccups like they saw last year. Third, retailers will be keen to get sales in early to secure their share of slightly more subdued consumer spending – some of this will be via selective promotions, especially if Amazon elect to run a Prime Day style event.

Mark Ryski, Founder, CEO & Author, HeadCount Corporation

This will be one of the more uncertain holiday seasons in memory since it’s the first post-pandemic holiday season that resembles pre-pandemic. With lingering supply chain issues and still high inflation, it’s hard to say how consumers will respond. Consumer demand remains relatively strong, and that should be a setup for a robust holiday season and potentially early buying. Promotional activity always plays a role but, again, it’s hard to say exactly how it will play out. Retailers should play offensive.

Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC

It’s a hard question to answer: Will shoppers hit stores early due to lingering supply chain problems, or will they hold off as long as possible because of inflationary impact? The longer they wait, the more pressure there will be on retailers to ramp up their promotions — especially for stores sitting on too much seasonal inventory. (And that includes “pack and hold” apparel from a year ago.)

If I were to hazard a guess today, I would come down on the side of late shopping activity. Supply issues are not completely behind us, but they are trumped by continuing high prices for gas and basic commodities.

Nikki Baird, VP of Strategy, Aptos

I think the combination of budgeting discretionary dollars that don’t go as far and fear of supply chain shortages of popular items will get consumers to spend earlier – really, to spread their spending across more months than typical.

What I’m not sure about is how much promotions will play a role in influencing consumer spending. We’re in a weird place right now where retailers have too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right things, and I think that will extend into the holiday season.

I have to share, though: while walking through Costco at the end of August and seeing all the Christmas stuff that is out already, along with product clearly intended as holiday toys and gifts, my husband asked me, “Is that all from the stuff they ordered for holiday last year but didn’t get in time?” And I’m guessing he’s probably right. So it definitely feels like holiday is going to be a really mixed bag this year!

Lisa Goller, Content Marketing Strategist

Just as Prime Day in October 2020 pulled holiday sales forward by several weeks, we’ll see early sales this year. Retailers want to relieve supply chain strain and shoppers want certainty of availability.

We’ll see promotions on steroids as shoppers seek deals and retailers battle for revenue.

Verlin Youd, SVP Sales & Business Development, Theatro

Yes, U.S. consumers will continue their evolution of shopping habits, flattening the curve that now has an extended lower peak from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Overstocks at some and recessionary worries at all will motivate retailers to drive promotions and marketing earlier than ever. Low unemployment and decreasing gas prices will fuel the trend. (Sorry, all puns intended.)

Georganne Bender, Principal, KIZER & BENDER Speaking

Smart consumers always start their holiday shopping early, but a large number of us will wait to purchase.

Retailers have trained us to do this: The closer to Christmas, the better the sales. Budget and planning always comes into play, but those end-of-season, buy now, last-minute savings always win.

Gene Detroyer, Professor, International Business, Guizhou University of Finance & Economics and University of Sanya, China.

What year in the last two decades didn’t shoppers shop earlier than the previous year? Along with that, the trend for experiences over things will continue.

We have already seen the trend in the changing calendar of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It will continue as retailers try to capture sales from the shopper before the shopper can buy from a competitor.

The real question is, how big will the shopping season be? If we adjust for inflation, will it top previous years? I predict that no matter how hard the retailers try, their year-over-year will not match the inflation rate. That is a message from the consumer.

Andrew Blatherwick, Chairman Emeritus, Relex Solutions

This season will be a mixture of early shoppers and late shoppers, the early ones looking to spread their budget and spending over a longer period of time and the later ones looking for last minute bargains to offset inflation. The situation could be driven by a few very large retailers’ promotional strategies. Will Amazon try and get ahead and grab whatever limited spend there is available? It looks like Walmart has taken that approach. How will the competition react to that? With such uncertain times, the economy, inflation and still uncertain availability of product we will see a very mixed picture this year. The only thing that is for certain is that spending will be down and retailers will have to fight for every dollar.

Jeff Sward, Founding Partner, Merchandising Metrics

Prediction: There won’t be a single vote for a later start to holiday shopping on Retail Wire today. It will be earlier and more promotional than ever. All this inventory has to go somewhere. Buckle in.

Ken Morris, Managing Partner Cambridge Retail Advisors

I’m with Walmart on this. Walmart knows (almost) all, so I’ll go with an earlier Christmas this year. Christmas in July now sounds reasonable, so we’re already behind schedule! I guess it depends somewhat on the products being purchased, with higher-end items being shopped later by people looking for a deal. Supply chain issues have contributed to a glut of merchandise, so this should be a season where the shoppers win regardless of timing. 

Richard Hernandez, Director, Main Street Markets

I am seeing stores already putting Christmas product on the shelf. I am guessing this is either last year’s assortment or early arriving product. There is still no consistency in regards to the supply chain, so most retailers are operating in the dark. The current inflation issues will limit spending during the holidays.

Tara Kirkpatrick, Mobile Trends Analyst, Apptopia

According to last month’s earnings calls, retailers seem to all be on the same page about both driving holiday sales early and somewhat relying on them to boost a weaker bottom line. As a result, consumers will be inundated with early holiday shopping promotions until shopping for gifts is top of mind and fiscally “makes sense.” Shoppers are already out in droves, with Q3 being stronger than the prior year’s Q4 for the mobile activity of apparel brands and beauty retailers for the first time in over three years. Despite concerns about a recession and the reality of inflation, mobile activity indicates that U.S. consumers have not kicked the shopping habits they developed in the past two and half years; instead, they are just shopping where they can save while spending.

Melissa Minkow, Director, Retail Strategy, CI&T

I could actually see consumers shopping later this year because of the impacts of inflation on their budget availability. Waiting to get the full picture on how low retailers go with prices could be the move in the face of less spending power.

Lee Peterson, EVP Thought Leadership, Marketing, WD Partners

It’s already started. The “beat the inflation” meter is very high right now and with online free shipping (because there’s no hurry) exacerbating the situation, I would expect both September and October to be laden with Christmas shoppers (mostly online). And if you know what you want (especially for kids), it’s a very smart move.

Kathleen Fischer, Director of Retail Marketing, en Vista

With concerns about inflation and supply chain issues, consumers will be shopping earlier and definitely on the lookout for bargains.

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