Countdown to Christmas! Procrastinators Spike Last-minute Sales

Retailers are now in the final stretch of the holiday shopping season. Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas, prompted over 148 million shoppers to purchase last-minute gifts online or visit stores. If analysts and the National Retail Federation (NRF) are correct, retailers will wrap up the season with record-breaking holiday sales. 

But, with just a week to go, consumer demand remains high, and big retailers say they are ready to deliver the goods. Even so, there are a few glitches that have forced retailers and consumers to alter their typical behaviors and rethink how they will approach the next few days. Steph Wissink, a retail analyst for Jefferies, says, “Usually, all data points are directionally pointing to a similar outcome. Right now, some data points are conflicting with each other. So, were trying to solve for, What is the consumer ultimately going to do?” 

Shoppers have Conflicting Emotions

While holidays are meant to be festive, the extended buying season has been stressful for many shoppers. In September, consumers were alerted to get their shopping done early since popular products are in short supply due to disruptions in the supply chain. Last week, Jefferies, the equity research firm, surveyed shoppers and reported that 44 percent of respondents said the products they planned to purchase were out of stock. Rather than predicting what will happen this week, Wissink outlines a few different scenarios.

  • More people will shop, causing a spike in-store traffic
  • People feel stuck and caught in the middle of early shopping and canceled holiday parties
  • Shoppers will sit out the last shopping days leading to Christmas due to sticker shock, anxiety related to Covid, or early shopping
  • Retailers may opt to cut prices or offer two-day shipping to move merchandise

Warmer Weather Spike Sales

The weather is relatively mild in many parts of the country. It may well be one of the warmest mid-Decembers in more than 60 years. In the winter, warmer temperatures are good for business. Customers are more likely to shop at small businesses or go to the mall since they aren’t stuck at home because of bad weather or snow. 

Since many larger retailers are no longer offering free shipping at this point, shoppers have fewer convenient options. It’s faster to hop in the car to pick up last-minute gifts. The NPD, a retail trade group, reports 52 percent of the surveyed shoppers to plan to shop for gifts this week.

Concerns about Health and Safety

The surge in Covid cases and the emergence of the omicron variant have made health and safety a priority for businesses and consumers. The people who err on the side of caution may choose to order their merchandise online and pick it up at the store. 

Many businesses encourage shoppers to Buy Online and Pickup at Curbside (BOPIC) as a contactless option. According to a survey conducted by Medallia Zingle, a technology company, 87 percent of respondents want businesses to continue curbside pickup and any other processes that reduce the need for in-person visits.

  • 79 percent of respondents seek out information about health and safety measures businesses have in place before doing business with them
  • 77 percent of respondents consider the need for in-person contact before visiting a business

There has been a resurgence in-store traffic over the past year. However, that could change depending on unforeseen and existing pandemic issues. “With the rise of omicron, more shoppers may revert to buying online and retrieving purchases through curbside pickup as they check off the final items on the gift list, says Craig Johnson, President of Customer Growth Partners. “There will not be a reduction in sales, but a channel shift from in-person to online, going back the other way.”

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