Americans Spend More Than Expected as Holiday Season Heats Up

November retail sales up 0.8% from prior month; economists saw 0.3% increase

Customers checking out at a Target store in Alexandria, Va., in November.
Wall Street Journal

 

Americans are spending more than expected this holiday season, fueled by income gains, confidence in the economic outlook, buoyant financial markets and modest inflation.

The boost includes in-store and online spending at brick-and-mortar retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Nordstrom Inc., which clocked the largest year-over-year November sales increase in seven years. Home-furnishing stores and electronics-and-appliance stores also logged strong spending numbers, despite competition from online-shopping websites, which also posted robust gains.

“It’s an impressive start to the holiday season and probably the best in the last few years,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, a group that represents retail stores. “When you put the pieces together, job and wage gains, modest inflation, healthy balance sheet and elevated consumer confidence…there’s an improved willingness to spend.”

Altogether, sales at online retailers, brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants rose 0.8% in November from the prior month, well above the 0.3% increase economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected. That was up 5.8% from a year earlier, the largest yearly November increase since 2011. Despite their woes from online competition, general merchandisers such as department stores fared well, registering a 3.6% sales increase from a year earlier, the best November performance since 2010.

“Overall these data are much stronger than expected,” said Ian Shepherdson, an economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a note to clients. “People have the inclination and the wherewithal to continue spending at a robust pace.”

Taken altogether, the data suggest the U.S. is on track for robust growth in the fourth quarter. Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting firm, estimated the economy is growing at a 2.8% annual pace in the October-to-December period, up from a 2.6% forecast before the retail-data release. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta estimated a 3.3% growth rate.

One caveat: Spending is so strong it is outpacing income gains, meaning Americans are saving at a slower rate, which could lead to a spending slowdown later or the threat of rising debt levels.

Spending comparisons to last year were boosted by a weak holiday season in 2016 for retailers, which were plagued by high inventories and a slowdown in purchases by international tourists amid a rising dollar.

This year, some brick-and-mortar stores appear to be better managing their inventory. In their most recent quarter, both Macy’ s Inc. andKohl’s Corp. said their stores had less excess merchandise to clear out at steeply reduced prices. “We don’t have the albatross of a lot of extra inventory like we did last year,” Macy’s Chief Executive Jeff Gennette said in an interview on Black Friday. That, in turn, resulted in less discounting, Mr. Gennette said.

Mr. Kleinhenz said increasingly sophisticated website and app advertising is helping brick-and-mortar retailers too. “It’s a combined strategy that retailers have developed that integrates the use of the internet with the brick-and-mortar shopping approach,” he said.

A Brief History of Retail

The retail industry is undergoing another major shift — to e-commerce. How did we get here?

Since Nov. 1, online revenue has risen 24% compared with the same period last year, said Slice Intelligence, a research firm that tracks online purchase receipts. Online sales at Target Corp. ,Kohl’s Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp. rose the fastest, the firm said, though Amazon continued to grow rapidly from a larger sales base.

Better-than-expected quarterly results were reported by some mall stalwarts that have been battered, including Macy’s Inc. and Gap Inc. “There is a consolidation taking place” in the apparel market, Gap CEO Art Peck told analysts on Nov. 16. “Almost regardless of consumer sentiment, we’ve got an opportunity to drive growth and gain market share,” Mr. Peck said, as the company closes stores, remodels others and speeds up its product pipeline.

 The closure of thousands of stores this year could be giving those left standing a boost.

“On an overall basis, a portion of our improvement in our sales trend is attributable to our targeted efforts to capture share from competitive store closures in some of our trade areas, and we expect this will continue, if not accelerate, through the holiday season,” Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell told analysts in November.

Some businesses, meanwhile, are feeling a boost from the stronger labor market. Pete Benck, owner of Madison, Wis.-based vintage clothing store Good Style Shop, said this holiday season’s business has been stronger than last year’s.

“We have had a lot of foot traffic, and I think there’s a lot of confidence in our consumers lately,” Mr. Benck said.

The National Retail Federation expects consumers nationwide to spend about 4% more during the holiday shopping season than they had in 2016. That would make 2017 the strongest holiday season since 2014. Mr. Kleinhenz said the U.S. appears to be on track to meet that goal.

Write to Sharon Nunn at sharon.nunn@wsj.com

Photo credit: Customers checking out at a Target store in Alexandria, Va., in November. PHOTO:REYNOLD/EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Retailers Are Hoping For the Best Christmas Sales Since the Recession

With consumer spending surging, retailers are hoping for something they haven’t seen since the last recession began a decade ago: a truly great Christmas.

The Commerce Department reported better-than-expected U.S. retail sales for November and revised its October figures upward, bringing a fresh wave of optimism to a long-embattled industry.

Holiday shoppers are snapping up Nintendo Switch devices and Fingerlings toys as their disposable income grows, according to Craig Johnson, head of the Customer Growth Partners. His research firm just boosted its forecast for holiday sales to 5.6 percent, well above the 4.3 percent it had targeted earlier.

“We think this marks the beginning of a real and sustained rebound,” Johnson said in an interview. After tracking the 50 largest retailers across 90 major shopping venues, he believes that spending will grow more this season than in any holiday since before the Great Recession began in 2007.

“It’s all demographics, and it’s geographically widespread,” he said.

Austin Kreitler, a 21-year-old college student in New York, is one shopper who is ready to open his wallet this holiday season.

“I definitely spent more this year than I have in previous years,” he said during a visit to Bloomingdale’s in Manhattan. “I got some novelty things, but I also got my mom a pearl necklace and earring set.”

E-Commerce Growth

The spending uptick is good news for retailers of all stripes, but some are faring better than others. Online spending growth is expected to outpace brick-and-mortar expenditures, and plenty of companies are still struggling.

Pier 1 Imports Inc., the home-furnishings chain, saw sales weaken in the first two weeks of December. The slow start to the holiday season weighed on the company’s fourth-quarter forecast, sending the shares on their worst rout in almost three years Thursday.

Traditional retailers are increasingly chasing online dollars. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has acquired web brands such as Jet.com and Bonobos, and it’s offering two-day free delivery to entice shoppers. Target Corp., meanwhile, agreed to buy e-commerce startup Shipt Inc. this week for $550 million, aiming to challenge Amazon.com Inc.

The greater emphasis on online orders may be one reason why a rosier holiday season isn’t translating into traffic gains at many malls. During Black Friday, foot traffic was down slightly for the second year in a row, according to data compiled by Prodco Analytics and Bloomberg.

Genevieve Domingo, a shopper who was trying on boots at Bloomingdale’s, said she’s getting most of her gifts online this year, including a Game of Thrones drinking horn and a DNA kit for her brother.

Broad Gains

Merchants without physical stores saw their biggest sales gain last month since October 2016, the Commerce Department reported on Thursday. But retail growth was broad-based, with 11 of 13 categories posting increases. Apparel sales had their third straight uptick, the longest such stretch since mid-2014.

The numbers indicate that household spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, is picking up during the final stretch of the year. The job market remains strong, with solid hiring and an unemployment rate that’s the lowest since December 2000. In addition, stock-market gains and rising home values are boosting household wealth.

If this season’s sales reach Customer Growth Partners’ target, it would be the best holiday performance since 2005. The industry posted a 6.1 percent increase that year, when the economy was still booming and a red-hot housing market was fueling spending.

Tax Cut?

One wild card is the tax bill wending its way through Congress. The legislation promises to to lower the burden for households by doubling the standard deduction, but consumers who can’t withhold as much of their state and local taxes could lose some spending power.

The National Retail Federation, the industry’s biggest trade group, has argued that consumers are spending more this season because they anticipate a tax cut. About 174 million Americans shopped during the long Thanksgiving weekend, 10 million more than expected, the organization said.

“All in all, it’s really portending for a very solid and maybe one of the best holiday seasons that we’ve seen in years,” Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF’s chief economist, said in an interview. “We’ll have to wait and see how December plays out.”

— With assistance by Matthew Townsend, and Sho Chandra

Bloomberg

Photo credit: Pedestrians view a holiday window display at a department store in New York.Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Americans Spend More Than Expected as Holiday Season Heats Up

Shoppers

 

Americans are spending more than expected this holiday season, fueled by income gains, confidence in the economic outlook, buoyant financial markets and modest inflation.

The boost includes in-store and online spending at brick-and-mortar retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Nordstrom Inc., which clocked the largest year-over-year November sales increase in seven years. Home-furnishing stores and electronics-and-appliance stores also logged strong spending numbers, despite competition from online-shopping websites, which also posted robust gains.

“It’s an impressive start to the holiday season and probably the best in the last few years,” said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, a group that represents retail stores. “When you put the pieces together, job and wage gains, modest inflation, healthy balance sheet and elevated consumer confidence…there’s an improved willingness to spend.”

Altogether, sales at online retailers, brick-and-mortar stores and restaurants rose 0.8% in November from the prior month, well above the 0.3% increase economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected. That was up 5.8% from a year earlier, the largest yearly November increase since 2011. Despite their woes from online competition, general merchandisers such as department stores fared well, registering a 3.6% sales increase from a year earlier, the best November performance since 2010.

“Overall these data are much stronger than expected,” said Ian Shepherdson, an economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a note to clients. “People have the inclination and the wherewithal to continue spending at a robust pace.”

Taken altogether, the data suggest the U.S. is on track for robust growth in the fourth quarter. Macroeconomic Advisers, a forecasting firm, estimated the economy is growing at a 2.8% annual pace in the October-to-December period, up from a 2.6% forecast before the retail-data release. The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta estimated a 3.3% growth rate.

One caveat: Spending is so strong it is outpacing income gains, meaning Americans are saving at a slower rate, which could lead to a spending slowdown later or the threat of rising debt levels.

Spending comparisons to last year were boosted by a weak holiday season in 2016 for retailers, which were plagued by high inventories and a slowdown in purchases by international tourists amid a rising dollar.

This year, some brick-and-mortar stores appear to be better managing their inventory. In their most recent quarter, both Macy’s Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. said their stores had less excess merchandise to clear out at steeply reduced prices. “We don’t have the albatross of a lot of extra inventory like we did last year,” Macy’s Chief Executive Jeff Gennette said in an interview on Black Friday. That, in turn, resulted in less discounting, Mr. Gennette said.

Mr. Kleinhenz said increasingly sophisticated website and app advertising is helping brick-and-mortar retailers too. “It’s a combined strategy that retailers have developed that integrates the use of the internet with the brick-and-mortar shopping approach,” he said.

The retail industry is undergoing another major shift — to e-commerce. How did we get here? Photo: Associated Press Related Video

Since Nov. 1, online revenue has risen 24% compared with the same period last year, said Slice Intelligence, a research firm that tracks online purchase receipts. Online sales at Target Corp., Kohl’s Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp. rose the fastest, the firm said, though Amazon continued to grow rapidly from a larger sales base.

Better-than-expected quarterly results were reported by some mall stalwarts that have been battered, including Macy’s Inc. and Gap Inc. “There is a consolidation taking place” in the apparel market, Gap CEO Art Peck told analysts on Nov. 16. “Almost regardless of consumer sentiment, we’ve got an opportunity to drive growth and gain market share,” Mr. Peck said, as the company closes stores, remodels others and speeds up its product pipeline.

The closure of thousands of stores this year could be giving those left standing a boost.

“On an overall basis, a portion of our improvement in our sales trend is attributable to our targeted efforts to capture share from competitive store closures in some of our trade areas, and we expect this will continue, if not accelerate, through the holiday season,” Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell told analysts in November.

Some businesses, meanwhile, are feeling a boost from the stronger labor market. Pete Benck, owner of Madison, Wis.-based vintage clothing store Good Style Shop, said this holiday season’s business has been stronger than last year’s.

“We have had a lot of foot traffic, and I think there’s a lot of confidence in our consumers lately,” Mr. Benck said.

The National Retail Federation expects consumers nationwide to spend about 4% more during the holiday shopping season than they had in 2016. That would make 2017 the strongest holiday season since 2014. Mr. Kleinhenz said the U.S. appears to be on track to meet that goal.

Sarah Nassauer Wall Street Journal

Yahoo Finance!

Write to Sharon Nunn at sharon.nunn@wsj.com

Photo credit:Black Friday shoppers sort through their purchases while waiting for their rides at The Mall at Turtle Creek in Jonesboro, Ark. Americans, by most measures, appear ready to shop this holiday season. (Staci Vandagriff/The Jonesboro Sun via AP, File)

Retailers Hope For Strong Holiday Season As November Sales Beat Expectations

U.S. retailers are looking forward to a strong holiday season this year after new numbers show higher than expected sales for November.

The Commerce Department said Thursday that retail and food sales were up 5.8 percent last month over November 2016, according to advance estimates. And, sales were up a seasonally adjusted 0.8 percent from October of this year.

“This has been an impressive start to the holiday season, perhaps the best in the last few years,” Jack Kleinhenz of the National Retail Foundation said in a statement. The group, which represents retail stores, released its own similar estimates Thursday. “The combination of job and wage gains, modest inflation and a [healthy] balance sheet along with elevated consumer confidence has led to solid holiday spending by American households,” he added.

According to The Wall Street Journaleconomists had predicted only a 0.3 percent increase in sales for November.

Sales were up 2.1 percent over the previous month at electronics stores and 1.2 percent at furniture stores, the agency reported.

Surveys show customers are the most confident they’ve been since 2000, according to The Associated Press. The most recent unemployment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the country’s unemployment rate at 4.1 percent in November, the same as it was in October. It’s the lowest unemployment rate since before the economic recession that began a decade ago.

In a sign of confidence in the economy, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates this week for the third time this year and the fifth time since the economic crisis.

Though to add some caution to the optimism, the Journal noted that strong spending “is outpacing income gains, meaning Americans are saving at a slower rate, which could lead to a spending slowdown later or the threat of rising debt levels.”

The newspaper also said that “high inventories and a slowdown in purchases by international tourists amid a rising dollar” contributed to a poor holiday season for retailers last year.

The National Retail Federation said sales for this year’s holiday season, which they define as November and December, “are on track to meet or exceed NRF’s holiday sales forecast for an increase between 3.6 and 4 percent over last year.”

Retail jobs climb amid ‘one of the strongest gains all year’

Dive Brief:

  • Retail jobs rose by “an unusually high 12,900 jobs” in November from October (excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants), according to a press release from the National Retail Federation.
  • Overall, employers added 228,000 jobs in November, another healthy economic sign as retailers wind down the year with the holiday sales push, according to the monthly report from the Labor Department. November’s unemployment rate is 4.1%, according to another report from the same office, a 17-year low.
  • But wage growth remains tepid: average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 5 cents to $26.55. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 64 cents, or 2.5%, according to the Labor Department — a rate that was “below expectations,” according to a statement Friday from U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.

Dive Insight:

Retailers’ holiday hiring may be helping boost November’s numbers. The annual hiring of temporary holiday workers is on track to reach the high end of the NRF’s forecast of between 500,000 and 550,000 positions, the organization said in a press release on Friday. The NRF forecasts that this year’s holiday sales will grow between 3.6% and 4%.

“This was one of the strongest gains we’ve seen all year,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. “You expect employment to be up during the holiday season and retailers are expecting strong holiday sales with related job growth, but overall growth in the economy has to be recognized here as well. We’re also seeing new jobs in other sectors of the economy, particularly industrial, and that means more demand for retail goods and a need for more retail workers.”

Employment rose in most retail sectors last month but there were some decreases, in electronics and appliance stores; clothing and clothing accessories stores; as well as non-store sales, which includes e-commerce, the NRF noted.

The Labor Department’s characterization of retail jobs hasn’t quite caught up with e-commerce, Kleinhenz also noted: It counts store employees, but not retail workers in corporate offices, distribution centers, call centers and innovation labs. Warehouse and storage employment, for example, was up by 8,100 jobs in November, but those don’t count as retail jobs even when they’re at retailers.

Still, holiday holiday hiring announcements are slightly behind last year’s totals, according to outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Companies have announced 608,129 seasonal hires so far this year, 2% fewer than the 620,700 announced last year, according to Challenger tracking. However, total hiring announcements reached over one million, the highest number on record, according to Challenger’s report, which was emailed to Retail Dive.

While tax reform is a wild card when it comes to retail hiring — it could mean more hiring or more workforce consolidation — increased merger and acquisition activity among retailers could mean lost jobs.

“While job-cut announcements have remained low all year, major M&A activity, such as the CVS/Aetna deal and the possibility of Amazon buying generic pharmaceutical manufacturers, could lead to a spate of large-scale job-cut announcements to open 2018, especially at Pharmaceutical, Retail, and Health Care companies,” John Challenger,Challenger, Gray & Christmas Chief Executive Officer said in an email to Retail Dive.

A Bit of Ho Ho Ho fo the Retail Industry

Stores got a bit of yuletide cheer as employment numbers recently released by the government show that nearly 13,000 retail jobs were added to payrolls in November – due mostly to seasonal shopping.

With that number, the National Retail Federation said the retailers’ annual hiring of temporary holiday workers is on track to reach the high end of the the NRF’s forecast of between 500,000 and 550,000 temporary jobs for the season. “This was one of the strongest gains we’ve seen all year,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

Also, warehouse and distribution center employment increased by 8,100 jobs in November but did not count as retail jobs even if the workers were employed by retailers.

When looking at the entire economy, U.S. companies added a healthy 228,000 jobs in November. The NRF is forecasting that holiday sales will inch up by 3.6 percent to 4 percent this season.

 

By Deborah Belgum

Apparel News

Retail Jobs Increased in November

Retail industry employment increased by an unusually high 12,900 jobs in November over October, according to the National Retail Federation. The number excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Overall, the economy added 228,000 jobs, the Labor Department said.

“This was one of the strongest gains we’ve seen all year,”  said  Jack Kleinhenz, NRF chief economist. “You expect employment to be up during the holiday season and retailers are expecting strong holiday sales with related job growth, but overall growth in the economy has to be recognized here as well. We’re also seeing new jobs in other sectors of the economy, particularly industrial, and that means more demand for retail goods and a need for more retail workers.”

The November increase compares with a monthly loss of 10,300 jobs in October, although that figure came after a monthly increase of 10,600 jobs in September. The three-month moving average in November showed an increase of 4,400 jobs.

With the numbers from November now in, retailers’ annual hiring of temporary holiday workers is on track to reach the high end of NRF’s forecast of between 500,000 and 550,000 positions. NRF forecasts that this year’s holiday sales will grow between 3.6 and 4 percent.

Employment increased in most retail sectors during November but there were decreases in electronics and appliances stores, clothing and clothing accessories stores, and non-store sales, which includes online sales.

Kleinhenz noted that retail job numbers reported by the Labor Department do not provide an accurate picture of the industry because they count only employees who work in stores while excluding retail workers in other parts of the business such as corporate headquarters, distribution centers, call centers and innovation labs. Warehouse and storage employment, for example, was up by 8,100 jobs in November but the positions do not count as retail jobs even if the workers are employed by retailers.

Economy-wide, average hourly earnings in November increased by 64 cents—2.5 percent—year over year. The Labor Department said the unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, unchanged from October.

NRF Data Shows Thanksgiving Weekend is Primed to Be a Historic One

The Thanksgiving-Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend is already the biggest retail shopping weekend of the year. But the latest series of research from the National Retail Federation (NRF) shows that the 2017 edition of this holiday shopping extravaganza is shaping up to be a rather historic one.

For starters, according to NRF more than 164 million consumers plan to shop at some point over the weekend—which, for the first time in NRF’s annual pre Black Friday survey, is gauged as any time between Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.

“This year, we updated our survey to more accurately capture consumer behavior throughout the entire shopping weekend—Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “Consumers will benefit from competitive promotions both in stores and online lasting the course of the weekend, allowing them to find the best gifts at the lowest prices.”

Of those who said they plan to shop, 20 percent (32 million) said they would go out on Thanksgiving night. The busiest day, according to NRF, will be Black Friday with 70 percent (115 million) of those surveyed saying they’d be out and about the day after Thanksgiving. (That runs in stark contrast to a pre-Black Friday report from the Consumer Technology Association in which consumers identified Black Friday as the least likely time they’ll shop for electronics.) Another 43 percent (71 million) of consumers said they plan to shop on Saturday with 76 percent of those saying they’d do so specifically to support Small Business Saturday. Another 21 percent (35 million) said they’d shop on Sunday, and 48 percent (78 million) said they’d go online for Cyber Monday deals.

As for the “why” question, NRF found that 66 percent said they would go out during the weekend in search of deals and promotions, while 26 percent said they go out because of the tradition, and another 23 percent said it’s just because it gives them something to do over the weekend. When asked what they enjoy most about shopping during the holidays, 35 percent said it was the family tradition, 23 percent said it was seeing the holiday displays and decorations, and another 18 percent said it was finding that perfect gift for someone.

Riding High into Black Friday

Another recent report from NRF provided more hard evidence that retailers should feel confident heading into this crucial time of year. According to the association’s monthly retail sales report, October saw a 0.1 percent increase in sales over September—a modest figure—but a 4.3 percent year-over-year increase.

“There was broad strength across most sectors, and households clearly have the wherewithal to spend going into the holiday season,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement. “The uplift in October payroll and income has generated a healthy pace of retail spending and household debt burdens are historically low. Congressional action on tax reform should help boost confidence, but it is important that lawmakers keep up their momentum and not let details of the legislation get in the way of achieving such a long-sought goal.”

Specific to the electronics and appliance stores segment, NRF reported that sales were up 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted over September, and up 2.1 percent year-over-year.

Dealerscope’s own CE Retail Confidence Index supports the narrative, having seen strong growth over the past two months as the holiday shopping season drew closer.

Rob Stott

Retailers’ wish lists feature early holiday shopping

Most consumers haven’t bought their Thanksgiving turkey yet, but it’s already the holiday shopping season in the minds of many retailers.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and others are aggressively advertising holiday specials online and in stores to get a jump on the spending spree that remains a k.

Black Friday has become black November,” quipped Steve Barr, head of the U.S. retail and consumer sector at PwC, the accounting and advisory firm. That’s because so many retailers are rolling out their holiday price cuts well in advance of Black Friday, once the traditional start of holiday buying.

Although Black Friday remains a big shopping day, its import has been eroded by ever-earlier bargains, the growing clout of online shopping and retailers’ fear that the other guy is getting a jump on them. That competition anxiety was behind the push five years ago to open stores on Thanksgiving Day, and merchants are proving again this year that they can’t open their physical stores early enough to launch the season.

Wal-Mart, Kohl’s Corp., Toys R Us Inc. and several others plan to open on Thanksgiving again this year — some even earlier than in 2016 — a move that in past seasons drew grumbling from some consumers and retail employees unhappy with retail’s “Christmas creep.”

Brick-and-mortar stores are expected to lose more ground this year to the convenience of shopping by phone or computer.

E-commerce has become so pervasive that U.S. online retail sales this holiday season are expected to reach $107.4 billion this year, a 13.8% jump from last year and the first time they’ll top the $100-billion mark, the research firm Adobe Analytics forecasts.

Altogether, U.S. holiday retail sales (those for November and December) should climb between 3.6% and 4% this year, to as much as $682 billion, the National Retail Federation forecasts.

The economy is helping.

“The combination of job creation, improved wages, tame inflation and an increase in net worth all provide the capacity and the confidence [for consumers] to spend,” Jack Kleinhenz, the NRF’s chief economist, said in a statement.

And retailers are trying to cover every shopping preference and garner every possible sales dollar as they launch the holiday spending season, which can account for about 40% of a retailer’s annual revenue.

Indeed, it would be a mistake to confuse the woes of the retailers’ physical stores — which partly reflects that too many locations were built to survive the shift to online — with the notion that Americans no longer care as much to step foot in stores for “doorbusters” and other deeply discounted goods, analysts said.

After all, if online shopping is all the rage, why bother opening stores on Thanksgiving Day?

Because “a website can’t give you goosebumps” like those experienced in touching, buying and taking home the electronics, apparel and other goods bought during the holidays, Barr said.

“Let’s say you and I both want to buy a TV on Thanksgiving Day,” he said. “You go online and it’s going to be delivered in two to three days. I go to the store, get my TV and I’m home in an hour and watching it. It’s an emotional interaction, and that’s what they’re appealing to on Thanksgiving Day.”

The International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group, said its latest survey indicated that 84% of shoppers on Thanksgiving weekend expect to head to stores. And 85% of the respondents said they expect that when they get there, their purchases will depend on deals or promotions.

That expectation of seeing tantalizing price cuts is partly the fallout from the surge in internet shopping, a segment in which the likes of Amazon.com have put huge downward pressure on prices.

Americans’ online purchases on Cyber Monday alone will climb 16.5% from last year to $6.6 billion, making it the largest online-shopping day in history, Adobe estimates.

The term “Cyber Monday” was coined by staffers at the National Retail Federation in 2005 when they noticed a jump in online sales following the Black Friday weekend.

Many consumers at the time had relatively slow internet connections at home. It became apparent that when they returned to work or school Monday, where they had computers with faster internet speeds, they shopped online.

Retailers seized on the trend and began heavily promoting Cyber Monday as another day for major holiday discounts. And now, of course, fast internet connections are ubiquitous on smartphones, tablets and desktop computers.

This year, Adobe Analytics expects that purchases made on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets will account for 54% of all e-commerce holiday sales — the first time they’ll surpass online sales made on desktop machines.

Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. were among the retailers that released Black Friday promotional prices on hundreds of items last week — sale prices that will return on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

Best Buy, for instance, was selling a 43-inch LG television at its “Black Friday price” of $279.99, which it claimed was a $150 savings.

Target and other retailers also heavily promoted “sneak peeks” of their Black Friday advertising fliers on their websites in hopes of luring consumers when Black Friday arrives.

Not every retailer will be open Thanksgiving Day, however.

Chains such as Home Depot IncCostco Wholesale Corp., Nordstrom Inc. and Marshalls are among those expected to stay closed Thanksgiving Day, according to BestBlackFriday.com, which tracks the industry.

Outdoor retailer REI Co-op also will close its 151 stores for the third consecutive year on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, a span in which it urges its customers and 12,000 employees to “opt outside.” REI said its website also would not process any online orders those days.

That doesn’t surprise Pam Danziger, who runs the retail consulting firm Unity Marketing. “Many consumers want Thanksgiving to be a pure holiday,” she said.

But Danziger said many chains still opt to open Thanksgiving Day “because they’re desperate to squeeze every last dollar out of their customers,” she said. “They feel like they have to, because the pressure is so high right now to avoid letting their competitors get an inch on them.”

Barr said there’s another reason why retailers open Thanksgiving Day: It’s a way for them to persuade customers to return before Dec. 25.

“If you make that experience as enjoyable as possible in stores on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, they’ll be back later in the holiday season,” he said. “Shoppers never forget how you made them feel.”

L.A. Times

Retail jobs on decline after big weather events

The retail industry lost 18,000 jobs in October, according to the National Retail Federation, and while it’s hard to pinpoint specific reasons, extreme weather events may have played a part.

The figure does not include auto dealers, restaurants or gas stations, and the economy, overall, has added 261,000 jobs, according to the release which cited Labor Department figures.

“Retail jobs were down in October while overall employment was up, but it is difficult to draw conclusions because the jobs data is still distorted by the aftermath of the recent hurricanes,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in the release. “The storms have caused some consumers to defer discretionary spending, but at the same time retailers selling building materials saw a significant increase in sales as homeowners and businesses affected by the storms rebuild and make repairs. There continues to be a significant number of job openings in retail, so the drop could reflect a difficulty in hiring given the low unemployment rate. Also keep in mind that retailers are on the verge of adding half a million or more temporary workers for the holiday season.”

Employment at retailers selling building materials and supplies increased by 5,500 jobs in October, noted the release.

 

Retailer Customer Experience

November 7, 2017