November 21, 2018

More consumers expected to shop ’til they drop this holiday season (Naples Daily News) »

It’s almost turkey time. For retailers that means gravy time.

Gray Thursday, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are just around the corner.

Oh, and don’t forget Small Business Saturday.

More than 164 million American consumers plan to shop over those five days, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

About 34 million — or 21 percent — of those consumers plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day, gobbling up the deals offered at stores and online.

Black Friday will still reign as the busiest day over the Thanksgiving weekend, with 71 percent — or 116 million — of those shoppers expected to rush the stores or shop online to take advantage of the day’s hard-to-resist discounts and promotions.

While the bargains are a big draw, many shop at stores on the long holiday weekend because it has become a retail tradition with family and friends — and it’s something to do.

Shoppers under 35 are more likely to hit the stores for the social aspects, or to follow tradition, according to data from Prosper Insights.

“The holiday season — the months of November and December — for retailers are the Super Bowl,” said  Ana Serafin Smith, senior director of media relations for the National Retail Federation. “And Thanksgiving weekend is our halftime show. This is when Beyoncé comes out and does her thing. We put all of the bells and whistles out there and the promotions for Thanksgiving weekend.”

Based on the five days of sales, retailers can see what’s hot and what’s not, helping them prepare for what they’ll need to meet customer demands “for the second half of the game,” Smith said.

While Black Friday is huge, it’s not the busiest shopping day of the holiday season. It falls to second place nationally, thanks to procrastinators — many of them men — who wait until the last minute to check off their holiday shopping list.

“The No. 1 day is the Saturday before Christmas,” Smith said. “It has been like that for the last 10 years.”

Retailers expect a season that’s merry and bright

The National Retail Federation’s forecast estimates that holiday retail sales in November and December will increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 — for a total between $717.5 billion and $720.9 billion.

Consumers are expected to spend an average of about $1,007 during the holiday season, according to the federation’s survey. That would be a record number, up from a little over $967 last year.

Here’s how consumers will spend their money:

  • About $637 on gifts .
  • A little over $215 on nongift holiday items such as food, decorations and flowers.
  • Nearly $155 on gift purchases to take advantage of the season’s deals and promotions.

“One of the things over the last year that we have just been impressed by is the fact that this is a consumer that has everything aligned right now,” Smith said. “What I mean by that is consumer confidence is at an all-time high, we have the lowest unemployment rate on record, and wages have been up significantly, especially since the recession.”

When you add up all those positive factors, “it puts the consumer in the position where they can finally splurge, put themselves in a little bit of debt and/or spend a little bit of savings,” she said.

“They don’t feel guilty about that because they know they can pay it back one way or the other,” Smith said.

Although tariffs on a wide range of consumer goods from China took effect last month, retailers imported record volumes of merchandise before the tariffs, so the effect on pricing during the holiday season is expected to be minimal.

In recent years retailers have started offering deals earlier in November to encourage consumers to shop all month long. Some deals began as early as October.

On Nov. 9, Best Buy released its first round of Black Friday deals on everything from TVs to laptops to refrigerators.

Best Buy’s early bargains have included 4K TVs and gaming PCs, which are available now. Competitors Target and GameStop started their gaming deals Sunday,, which include console bundles.

Target’s REDcard holders will get early access and first crack at Black Friday deals online Wednesday.

What will be the hottest items over the Thanksgiving weekend? TVs, laptops, tablets and cellphones, Smith said.

There will be plenty of good deals on large appliances, which will be popular too.

“If you are looking for a washer and dryer, microwave or kitchen refrigerator, this is the time to purchase it, especially items that are now going to be old because they were made and designed just for 2018,” Smith said. “Retailers are trying to get those out of their warehouse as soon as possible. So they are putting those on pretty deep discount right now.”

Get deals while you can

If consumers have their eye on something that’s already on sale, they may want to buy it quickly before it’s gone, said Scott Shalley, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation.

“Retailers are keeping strict track of inventory,” he said.

The Florida Retail Federation expects Florida retailers to see a 4.5 percent increase in holiday sales this year, when compared with 2017. That’s due to positive statewide economic indicators, including the lowest unemployment rate in more than a decade and record-breaking tourism.

Consumer spending accounts for about 75 percent of Florida’s gross domestic product, totaling $155 billion each year, according to the state’s retail federation.

Here are a few other interesting facts about retailing in Florida:

  • The holiday shopping season accounts for 20 to 40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales.
  • The retail industry is made up of more than 270,000 businesses, which employ 2.7 million Floridians, and it’s responsible for 1 out of every 5 jobs.

Sunshine State shoppers are expected to load up their carts with the most popular items this year.

Don’t know what to buy? For the 12th year in a row, gift cards remain the most popular items on wish lists, requested by 60 percent of those surveyed by the National Retail Federation, followed by:

  • Clothing and accessories (53 percent).
  • Books/movies/music (37 percent).
  • Electronics (29 percent).
  • Home décor (23 percent).
  • Jewelry (22 percent).

The most popular toys for this holiday season will include Pomsies, Fur-Real Pets, the Fortnite Version of Monopoly and Hatchimals, along with the usual best-sellers, such as Barbies, Legos and anything Nerf.

Retailers are ‘ready to go’

Last Friday the Target store off Immokalee Road in North Naples showed no signs of the holiday rush that’s to come. The in-store setup for Thanksgiving and Black Friday deals hadn’t begun. The real preparations don’t start until Wednesday night, said Brian Harrington, a store manager.

“Everything is ready to go, for sure,” he said.

He expects lines to form Thursday and Friday before the doors open, but he doesn’t  think they’ll be huge. Doors will open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving and close Friday at 1 a.m. They’ll reopen Friday at 7 a.m.

Black Friday deals will include discounts on cellphones and 20 percent off the entire bill for shoppers who spent at least $50 that day.

Harrington expects Apple products to be big sellers on Black Friday, as well as TVs, toys and home goods, including kitchen supplies.

“We see a lot of clothes sell,” he said. “Our apparel department is heavily shopped that day.”

For most consumers, shopping has already started

About 40 percent of shoppers began their holiday shopping before Halloween, and nearly 30 percent expect to be done by Black Friday. That’s because consumers like to spread out their spending over a few months rather than doing it all in a few days, said Shalley, with the Florida Retail Federation.

While online shopping will be big this season, many consumers still prefer the in-store experience, allowing them to see, touch and feel the merchandise before they buy it.

In the National Retail Federation’s survey, an equal number (55 percent) said they planned to shop online and in department stores, while 51 percent will go to discount stores, 44 percent to grocery stores, 33 percent to clothing stores and 24 percent to electronics stores.

Half of online shoppers said they planned to pick up their purchases in the store.

Millennials are becoming larger players in holiday spending, and they’re more about the experience, which they can’t get online. Nearly 50 percent of millennials are expected to spend more this year than they did last year.

“We expect shoppers to continue to shop at brick-and-mortar retail stores, and these companies will need employees who can provide great customer service and create loyalty to their brand,” Shalley said. “If you’re a seasonal job-seeker you are in a great position, as retailers and the hospitality industry will all be competing to hire you by offering perks like increased hours, gift cards, revenue sharing and focusing on the culture within their organization.”

Nationally retailers are expected to add 735,000 seasonal jobs this year — more than last year. That includes Target (120,000), Macy’s (80,000), J.C. Penney (40,000), Michael’s (18,000) and Amazon (100,000).

Sarah Hollenbeck, a shopping and retail expert for blackfriday.com, said her company’s Google surveys show more consumers will shop online this year.

“Only 15 percent said they are going to be getting in those lines early Black Friday morning,” she said.

Online shopping is even more attractive this year, with additional retailers offering free shipping for the holiday season, Hollenbeck said.

What else is different this year? Retailers are offering more gaming bundles that include headsets and games, Hollenbeck said.

Also, more of the smaller merchants are getting into the Black Friday sales. However, Amazon still dominates on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Hollenbeck said.

Don’t forget Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday, held annually on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, is celebrated by communities across the United States. American Express launched the Small Business movement in 2010 to encourage consumers to shop local.

In 2017 more than 7,200 individuals and organizations signed up as Neighborhood Champions to rally their communities with events and activities on Small Business Saturday. Businesses on Fifth Avenue South in downtown Naples will once again participate.

“We are expecting a large turnout on Nov. 24 with the wide variety of businesses and industries located on the avenue,” Bruce Barone Jr., executive director of the 5th Avenue South Business Improvement District, said in a news release.

More than 200 local businesses are headquartered on the popular street.

The holiday season isn’t just big for big-box retailers, after all.

Womply, a small-business software company, analyzed transaction data from thousands of small, independent retailers in all 50 states during the 2017 holiday season. The company’s State of Local Retail Report shows the kind of financial impact the holidays can have on local businesses in Florida.

Brad Plothow, a vice president of brand and communications for Womply, said one finding from the data that’s worth noting is that smaller Florida retailers make nearly $1,900 a day during the holiday season — 11 percent more than they do on an average day.

The report shows Black Friday is the No. 1 sales day of the year for small businesses in Florida, which make an average of $3,022 that day.

“Turns out the spillover effect into smaller retailers is also really large,” Plothow said. “Businesses are making 77 percent more on Black Friday than the average day.”

Black Friday far eclipses Small Business Saturday, which ranks as the 106th-best revenue day of the year (with average sales of $1,949), he said.

Consumers may be feeling a bit fatigued from the shopping they’ve done on the days leading up to Small Business Saturday, giving them a reason to slow down.

“They take a little bit of a break before they crank things up again for Cyber Monday,” Plothow said.

Cyber Monday is the 45th-best revenue day of the year for Florida retailers, who see a 23 percent increase in sales when compared with the average day.

Two of the top three sales weeks of the year come during the holiday season.

For Florida retailers the best shopping weeks of the year are Dec. 17-23 and Dec. 10-16, following national trends.

Despite all the hoopla surrounding Black Friday, there’s always a rush by last-minute shoppers, who in a panic will usually spend more by waiting to finish their holiday purchases.

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