Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 11/20/2014

Consumers are going to force retailers to work even harder to pull them into the stores this Thanksgiving weekend.

This story first appeared in the November 20, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

A survey of nearly 6,600 U.S. consumers conducted for the National Retail Federation by Prosper Insights & Analytics revealed a slightly lower level of certainty about their shopping intentions for the holiday weekend. While the percentage of those likely to shop dropped to 29.5 percent this year from 30.6 percent a year ago, those who replied that they might head out of their homes and into the stores rose to 31.6 percent from 31.3 percent. But those who don’t expect to use the four-day stretch to do their shopping rose to 38.9 percent of the sample from 38 percent in 2013.

Fewer expect to shop on Black Friday, Thanksgiving Day or the two weekend days. The percentage planning to shop on Black Friday dropped to 68.2 from 69.1 last year, while the corresponding number for Thanksgiving Day dropped more sharply — to 18.3 percent from 23.5 percent — despite the plans of more stores to be open for more hours on the holiday. Those planning to shop on Saturday and Sunday dropped to 42.9 and 21.6 percent, respectively, from 43.8 and 24.2 percent a year ago. Of the would-be Saturday shoppers, 72.7 percent said they would shop specifically as part of Small Business Saturday.

The total who will or might shop translated to about 140.1 million in this year’s survey, down from 140.3 million last year.

Nearly three-quarters — 74 percent — who plan to shop on Thanksgiving did so last year. In 2013, the percentage was 69.2.

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“Consumers today want more than just the discounts they’ve been showered with since the start of the recession,” said Matthew Shay, NRF’s president and chief executive officer. “They want exclusive offerings and a good reason to spend their discretionary budgets. We could witness a sea change this holiday season as consumers’ reliance on extremely deep discounts over the biggest shopping weekend of the year shifts to more of a ‘wait-and-see’ mentality around what retailers will be offering on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.

“We are positive retailers have a few tricks up their sleeves that will draw their customers to their stores and Web sites, deciding the deals are worth it after all.”

Getting the attention of shoppers will be a bit more complicated as they appear less likely to monitor promotional opportunities through traditional sources. The most popular option in both years, monitoring advertising circulars, dropped to 47.9 percent from 49.1 percent. E-mails from retailers remained the second most utilized option, but dropped to 31.4 percent from 33.5 percent of the sample. Retailer apps dropped to 24.9 percent from 29.6 percent while retailers’ Web sites fell to 24.3 percent of the sample from 27 percent.

In its projections for the season, RetailNext, the San Jose, Calif.-based retail metrics monitoring service, listed Black Friday as the likely busiest day of the season, with the remainder of the top-five days clustered more closely around Christmas — Dec. 20, Dec. 21, Dec. 13 and Dec. 19. It expects Thanksgiving Day to be busier than a year ago, although those gains could be offset by softer sales the rest of the weekend.

Based on its monitoring activities to date, the company expects sales to be flat to down 1 percent for the November-December period, better than last year’s 3.6 percent decline, with similar improvement in traffic (down about 4 percent versus a 6.5 percent decline last year), conversion (up 0.5 percent versus down 0.2 percent) and average transaction value (up 3.5 percent versus up 2.4 percent).

Shelley Kohan, vice president of retail consulting, said the firm expects double-digit growth in online sales to continue, “but it might be lower than in the past. This year, much of the online activity is intended to drive sales into the stores and use their online activities to attract consumers to a physical store experience that’s more pleasant, fun and entertaining.”

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