Holiday shoppers on Super Saturday

It’s been another roller coaster of a holiday season and retailers are hoping for a big rush of business this “Super Saturday” weekend following a deep lull through most of December.

Super Saturday could prove to be the biggest volume day of this year for retailers, surpassing Black Friday.

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, 56 percent of holiday shoppers — about 134 million, up from 126 million last year — plan to shop this weekend on Super Saturday.

Customer Growth Partners projects that Saturday will rake in $26 billion in sales, versus the $24 billion tallied for Black Friday.

“Super Saturday will be about 6 percent higher than last year’s Super Saturday,” Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, told WWD.

“This is a key weekend,” said one retail chief executive. “The season started out with a bang, but it’s been volatile. In the end, it will be OK.”

Business tapered off more than expected in the three-week stretch from Cyber Monday to mid-December, given the earlier momentum seen through November. One reason could have been the shifts in the calendar. Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday were earlier, falling on Nov. 22 and 23, versus Nov. 24 and 25 last year, and there’s nearly a whole extra weekend of shopping this year since Christmas falls on a Tuesday, versus a Sunday last year.

Stock market declines could have spooked some shoppers, but usually, there’s a lag in how consumers react following a volatile time on Wall Street.

“It was a big, long lull,” observed Johnson. “Business was on track for the entire five-day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, then things dried up like a prune.”

A modest pickup was seen the weekend of Dec. 8 and 9, while last weekend was “pretty good but not great,” Johnson said. “Gas prices are down 54 cents a gallon since mid-October. That’s converted into a modest tailwind,” helping to hold up December sales.

But for many retailers, meeting their goals of achieving midsingle gains for the holiday season depends on this weekend. And Super Saturday, which is always the last Saturday before Christmas, has become “Panic Saturday.”

“Having made their lists and checked them twice, holiday shoppers have been out in full force these last few weeks, but many are still waiting to complete their shopping this weekend,” Matthew Shay, president and ceo of the National Retail Federation, said Thursday. “Retailers will use every opportunity to see that shoppers have a great experience in these final few days. Whether looking for competitive prices, festive in-store events or last-minute online shipping deals, retailers are ready to deliver.”

According to a report from Cowen & Co., “Retail and apparel traffic trends, as measured by ProdCo, have been volatile week to week, in part due to the calendar shift, but overall, the trajectory of both indices on a one-year and two-year stack basis indicate improved momentum. Holiday and colder weather may be helping traffic across the sector, be it online or in-store, as well as to work down inventory levels that appeared somewhat elevated post Q3.”

Price promoting has also been intense.

At J.C. Penney Co. Inc., early morning shoppers on Saturday will be greeted with an envelope containing a $10-off coupon good for any item priced at least $10, “while supplies last.” Penney’s listed some of its best deals as the $7.99 kids pajama pants, reduced from $22; the men’s and women’s pajama pants for $9.99, reduced from $24 to $32, and $19.99 women’s Arizona boots, reduced from $60 to $80.

Neiman Marcus on Thursday advertised an “after Christmas sale” offering up to 55 percent off and an extra 25 percent off select sale items.

Target Corp. has expanded its Shipt same-day grocery delivery service to include more product categories such as toys and electronics.

Dollar stores are gaining popularity. “Dollar stores’ old bargain-based reputation is now more about value and variety, expanding their reach among consumers,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry adviser, The NPD Group. “Especially during the holiday shopping season, time-starved consumers are attracted to one-stop retailers that help them minimize the surge in their spending.” NPD sees 7 percent growth in overall consumer spending at these retailers.

According to an NRF/Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, 34 percent of holiday shoppers purchased their last gift by Tuesday. A total of 44 percent are expected to be done by the end of Thursday, with 24 percent planning to make their last purchases Saturday or Sunday and 7 percent saying they will still be shopping on Christmas Eve. Four percent said their final gifts wouldn’t be bought until after Christmas.

The survey found 53 percent of consumers have already purchased clothing as gifts; 38 percent gift cards; 37 percent toys; 32 percent video games, books, and movies; 24 percent food or candy and 23 percent electronics or computer-related accessories.

Gifts of experience such as a cooking class, spa treatment, membership for a wine club or tickets to a sporting event have continued to be popular, with 39 percent of consumers hoping to receive an experience gift and 23 percent planning to give one.

The week following Christmas is also very important for retailers to meet their fourth quarter goals. It’s when consumers redeem gift cards, make lots of returns and discounts deepen. NRF/Prosper Insights indicated that 51 percent of those surveyed said they will shop during that period to take advantage of post-holiday sales, with 27 percent saying they would use gift cards and 17 percent to return or exchange unwanted gifts.

The survey polled 6,978 consumers about their holiday shopping plans and was conducted Dec. 3 to 12. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points

According to Adobe Analytics, a record $110.6 billion was spent online from Nov. 1 to Dec. 19, an increase of 17.8 percent, year over year, making it the biggest online shopping period ever in the U.S. Last year, the record stood at $93.9 billion.

Adobe forecasts that the holiday season (defined as Nov. 1 to Dec. 31) will see at least $126 billion in total U.S. online retail sales.

Mobile transactions soared to $33.3 billion coming from smartphones, representing 57 percent growth year-over-year, and the first holiday season with over half of visits (58.3 percent) coming from mobile devices.

“We’ve seen much steeper discounts on toys this year, as retailers are jockeying to fill the void in the toys market left by the closure of Toys R; Us and other industry shifts,” Taylor Schreiner, director, Adobe Digital Insights, said in a statement.

Top Products for the season include: Nintendo Switch, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, LG and Samsung TVs, iPad, Fire TV/Roku/ Chromecast, Beats Headphones, Lenovo and Dell laptops, L.O.L. Surprise and Little Live Pets, according to Adobe data.

“Weary holiday shoppers continue to look for alternatives to crowded stores, long lines and empty shelves in the final push to Christmas. Retailers who can offer the easiest shopping experience, whether through excellent use of data to anticipate shoppers’ needs or by providing an option for picking up products at brick-and-mortar stores, are the ones people are flocking to this week,” said Schreiner. “With a record 47 percent growth in buy online, pick up in-store purchases, retailers need to impress consumers in both the real and virtual worlds.”