One Day Does Not a Sales Season Make

Dec 01, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The official holiday selling season has just begun and, Black Friday and Cyber Monday reports aside, it’s too early to predict how it will all turn out, say retail industry experts.

Michael Niemira, chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), said only six percent of U.S. households have completed their holiday shopping, “So
there’s a lot more to see before we write the history of the season.”

Jacqueline Bass, store director for a Burlington Coat Factory store in Oklahoma City, said it is the end of the season not the beginning that matters most.

“Holiday shoppers really haven’t even gotten started,” she said. “The week of Christmas is normally the heaviest for us.”

Moderator’s Comment: Are consumers shopping differently, in terms of when, for this holiday season than they have in the past? Is there a most important
period (days/week) during the retail holiday sales season?

George Anderson – Moderator

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4 Comments on "One Day Does Not a Sales Season Make"

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Mark Lilien
15 years 2 months ago
Except for a handful of unique shortage items (Xbox, for example), people are shopping later and later. For 2 good reasons: (1) retailers panic as December 25 approaches, and; (2) gift cards have greater sales increases than anything else. Extra days between Thanksgiving and Christmas give retailers more opportunities to advertise and reduce prices; the easiest sales increase tools they can have. Customers are smart, and they’ve learned over many years that retailers get more desperate as time goes on. And you can’t spend a gift card until you receive it. Since you’ll probably not receive it until Christmas, you’ll use it after that. Often unusually warm weather contributes to the last-minute markdown retailer suicide march, since many people don’t buy their heaviest winter clothes until after they get cold. Smart retailers pay long-term weather forecasting services to aid them in deciding when to mark down their winter stuff. General William Prescott during the Battle of Bunker Hill, said, “Don’t shoot until you’ve seen the whites of their eyes.” He was trying to save his… Read more »
George Whalin
George Whalin
15 years 2 months ago
When and how consumers shop for the holidays is undergoing a significant change. For many years, a group of mostly women consumers have either made holiday gift purchases throughout the year or begun their holiday shopping as early as August. While this group is smaller today, they are still a very important group of buyers. Some retailers are beginning their merchandising and marketing of the holidays earlier and earlier, and are reaching another group of consumers who find this to their liking. Recently, we’ve heard about the importance of “Cyber Monday,” but online merchants saw the beginnings of holiday sales as early as September. There appears to be some evidence the number of last-minute holiday shoppers is growing, but most researchers believe the percentage of these late-in-the-season shoppers remains at approximately one third of the shopping population. In years when retailers are struggling to make their numbers, these last-minute shoppers become even more important. In what has surprised some observers, the two weeks following Christmas are becoming a very important part of the holiday shopping… Read more »
Mark Burr
15 years 2 months ago

I’m wondering how many retailers really recognize that gift cards create two opportunities rather than one. How many capitalize on that opportunity?

Bernice Hurst
15 years 2 months ago
This card business is beginning to frighten me. I’m planning a visit to California just after Christmas and my mother has already asked for the “pleasure” of taking me shopping. Based on your comments, this seems to me the worst possible time to even consider going near a shopping mall or any other kind of store. It just so happens that I did go shopping yesterday, at the newest and most popular mall in my area, and it was conspicuously comfortable i.e. lots of people around but not a crush by any stretch of the imagination. On the other hand, a market in London this past Sunday, occupied by artisan stallholders, was packed out. Obviously we do not have Black Thursday in the UK – or cyber Monday for that matter. People shop when they want to. Most of the Christmas lights and decorations are up, many stores had sales on but not many people seemed to be spending. Next week I’m planning an excursion to a town renowned for its small, individual, shops. It… Read more »

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