Holiday shopping is not the same as it was, say, 25 years ago. Transactions can now be made instantaneously, with unparalleled inventory available at your fingertips. And, the holiday shopping season has seemingly grown longer as retailers fight for consumers’ business sooner than ever before.
So, what are the retail trends this holiday season? And, how can customers best approach shopping for some last-minute gifts? Babson College Marketing Division Co-chair Lauren Beitelspacher and Lecturer Peter Cohan share some advice.
The Retail Trends of 2019
For the 10th time in the last 11 years, total holiday spending per consumer is expected to rise.
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales will grow this season about 4% and $730 billion. On average, consumers individually will spend more than $1,000 on decorations, candy, gifts, and other items.
Beitelspacher said this year, instead of browsing for items on smartphones and tablets before purchasing on a computer or in store, consumers have taken the next step of finalizing transactions on their devices via services such as Apple Pay or PayPal.
“The payment option is the last thing before conversion, you want to do whatever you can to expedite that process,” Beitelspacher said. “It minimizes those barriers to purchase.”
She also has noticed an increase in gift cards and experiences presented as gifts, which may include tickets to an event or a hotel stay.
“We’re seeing people reflect on consumption behaviors,” said Beitelspacher. “This next generation of consumers values experiences (and) events more than just stuff. The way that we surprise and delight people is changing.”
The Best Time to Find a Deal May Be Now
Cohan said product discounts tend to vary by item. Though prominent deals on electronics are promoted over Thanksgiving weekend, stores generally offer significant sales on toys just before holidays.
Beitelspacher said significant savings also can be had the weekend before Christmas. And, if you’re seeking to save on Christmas decorations, retailers may offer sales on up to 50% on wrapping paper, ornaments, and artificial Christmas trees.
Still Looking? Shop Small
More than 50 percent of United States consumers visit Amazon first when they’re shopping online, Cohan said. Purchases on the e-commerce giant could make up half of online sales by 2021.
Despite its name recognition, not all products sold on Amazon are reliable. In a study of brand-name products purchased from Amazon, the Government Accountability Office found that 20 of 47 products, from shoes to chargers, were counterfeit.
Cohan said indicators of counterfeit items include lower than established prices, poor customer reviews, or inconsistent item packaging.
Since 2000, online sales have climbed from 1% to 16%. Beitelspacher said despite these retail trends, customers shouldn’t neglect their local businesses.
“We’re conditioned to think online we’re going to get the best prices, and it’s just not true,” she said.
“People need to support their local businesses, often this is the most important time of the year for them,” Beitelspacher added. “They’re ready to go above and beyond for customer service. … As a society, we have to reflect on what our Main Streets are going to look like if our businesses aren’t there.”
After all, the holidays are a time for celebration.
“Try to enjoy the experience, and giving a gift to create joy, not the stress just because you feel like you have to,” Beitelspacher said. “This is a special time of year.”
Posted in Research & Insights