US retail in the midst of bumper holiday season

December 04, 2019

US retailers are in the midst of what’s expected to be a bumper holiday season, with the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicting sales will total between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion over the six-week holiday period.

Here’s how that spending is set to shape up and what retailers are doing to prepare for the season ahead.

Holiday season predictions

us retail in the midst of bumper holiday season bags

In their annual holiday forecast in October, the NRF predicted this year shoppers would be more willing to splash the cash than usual between November 1 and December 31, resulting in holiday sales growth of 3.8 to 4.2 per cent.

In total that’s expected to deliver a windfall of up to $730.7 billion to the retail sector, with Black Friday on November 29 and Super Saturday on December 21 the two top days when sales volumes are expected to peak.

Meanwhile, the NRF further noted individual shoppers planned to spend $1047.83 each, which is four per cent more than the $1007.24 spent on celebrating the festive season in 2018.

Thanksgiving

us retail in the midst of bumper holiday season gifts

Thanksgiving, including the major spending days of Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday kicked off the spending period in late November, with NRF research indicating an estimated 165.3 million people were expected to shop over these dates.

This year, preliminary figures indicate foot traffic on Thanksgiving and Black Friday may have been slightly down on 2018 by around three per cent.

The figures further indicate, many people got in early with a 2.3 per cent rise in shoppers on Thanksgiving, but a 6.2 per cent decline in foot traffic on Black Friday.

The busiest shopping days of the year

Black Friday may have been down when it came to foot traffic, but there’s still ample opportunity for retailers to enjoy increased expenditure.

According to Loss Prevention Media, eight of the top 10 shopping days of the year still lie ahead, with this Saturday, December 7, ranking 10th on the list of busiest shopping days of the year.

In descending order, they report the following dates fall in the top 10:

• Number 1 - Black Friday on November 29
• Number 2 – Super Saturday on December 21, just before Christmas
• Number 3 – Boxing Day on December 26, the day after Christmas
• Number 4 – Saturday, December 14, two Saturdays before Christmas
• Number 5 – Saturday, November 30, the day after Black Friday
• Number 6 – Sunday, December 22, the last Sunday before Christmas
• Number 7 – Monday, December 23, just before Christmas
• Number 8 – Saturday, December 28, just after Christmas
• Number 9 – Friday, December 27, just after Christmas
• Number 10 - Saturday, December 7, first Saturday in December

Together, these days are predicted to account for 42 per cent of all foot traffic throughout the holiday period.

How retailers should prepare

As retailers embrace the season of spending, a couple of major trends are emerging which require extra preparation. These include:

Click and Collect

Also known as Buy Online Pick Up In Store or BOPIS, this trend allows consumers to embrace the speed of online and the convenience of physical retail. Over the holiday season, many customers are expected to utilise the service to take advantage of a sale, and then pick up the item at a time that suits.

Retailers can prepare by ensuring their omnichannel offering is up to par, and their staff and POS systems are ready to accommodate the trend.

Tip: Establish a Mobile POS Kiosk comprising tablets and tablet holders which are dedicated to servicing the BOPIS demand.

Cutting the queue

Although the stores might be busy, customers still expect efficient service and a streamlined sales transaction. Again, this is where tablets and mobile POS come into play.

Tip: Set up extra mPOS terminals or arm your staff with mPOS tablets to shorten time spent in the queue.

Sufficient staffing and suitable training

A frictionless customer experience will be key to harnessing the sales period to best effect. Ensure your store is sufficiently staffed and employees are well trained in customer service, product knowledge, available stock, and store procedure.

Tip: Arm your staff with tablets to allow them to quickly research on behalf of the customer, input customer loyalty details and offer upselling suggestions.

Loss prevention

Genuine shoppers aren’t the only ones seeking a deal instore. Increased foot traffic means increased shoplifting, so train staff accordingly and ensure loss prevention strategies are state of the art.

Stock levels

If stock has been advertised, customers will expect to be able to buy it in store. Double check stock levels and incoming orders to accommodate expected peak shopping days.

Tip: Automate your reordering process for when products run low, or establish automatic alerts at the mPOS to ensure staff are aware of low stock and items are reordered quickly.

Deploying tablets in store

Harnessing the power of tablets in store is simpler and more affordable than many expect, requiring just a small investment in hardware like iPads, stands and secure enclosures, and easy to utilise software such as mPOS apps.

You can learn more about apps suited to retail in our resources section, or peruse our range of secure tablet holders and stands here.

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