While mobile devices and wide-screen TVs are hot this season, for many retailers, the surprise is in fashion.
Moto jackets, puffers, lightweight statement jewelry, boho styles, Apple watches, cold-weather accessories, striped sweaters, fragrance gift sets, “comfort clothes” and lipsticks are among the items and categories lifting business across a spectrum of retailers. Discounting and some pent-up demand for apparel, the soaring stock market and high consumer confidence are contributing to the uptick.
Retailers now have “Super Saturday” — the last Saturday before Christmas — and three other days until Christmas to look forward to and many Americans still searching for gifts. According to a National Retail Federation/Prosper Insights survey, only 12 percent of consumers had finished their holiday shopping as of Dec. 12; 55 percent of U.S. adults were expected to finish their holiday gift shopping by Dec. 20; 6 percent will still be shopping Sunday, and 5 percent will be buying gifts after Christmas. The survey found that 53 percent of consumers — about 126 million people — plan to shop this Saturday.
“Even though many consumers got a head start with holiday shopping early in the season, millions more are leaving their gift buying to the last minute and beyond,” NRF president and chief executive officer Matthew Shay said Wednesday.
The survey found 54 percent of consumers purchased clothing or accessories; 39 percent toys; 39 percent gift cards; 35 percent books, movies and other media; 25 percent consumer electronics or computer-related accessories, and 25 percent food or candy. Gifts of experience such as tickets to a sporting event, spa or cooking class have also been popular.
“Comfort clothes” such as loungewear, hoodies, velour leggings, stretch denim and bralets are fueling apparel’s best holiday season in years, according to Customer Growth Partners. “Although the spending strength spans almost all major merchandise categories, channels and formats, what is most gratifying is to see the exceptional rebound in apparel sales, after years in the doldrums,” said CGP president Craig Johnson. Apparel sales growth went from 1 percent year-to-date to 4.9 percent in November, Johnson said.
In precious jewelry, Visnja Brdar, founder and creative director of Visnja Jewels, said customers are looking for modern and unique statement pieces, visually lighter, less chunky and holding special meaning. “They are not interested in purely decorative, ornamental designs,” Brdar said. “They connect emotionally with my designs which are symbolic.”
Some Gap bestsellers are bomber jackets, “crazy stripe” crewneck sweaters updated with marled texture, and Thermolite slim fit jeans. Macy’s bestsellers include $29.99 diamond stud earrings with any purchase of $50, Apple watches, fragrance gift sets, activewear and Michael Kors bags. Wal-Mart said flannel shirts in Wyoming and personal travel-care kits and pressed powder makeup in Ohio were strong sellers. And Wal-Mart-owned Jet.com cited Comme des Garçons dotted pouch wallets and Calvin Klein unisex logo beanies were among the brisk sellers.
At Vince, “Overall, we’re seeing great traction in the leather and suede categories. Additionally, outerwear and knitwear are performing across the board,” said a spokesman.