Holiday price wars

“One heck of a holiday shopping season” is how Mastercard senior adviser — and former Saks Fifth Avenue chief executive officer — Stephen Sadove describes this year’s biggest retail event.

The latest Mastercard Spending Pulse report is calling for total retail sales — excluding autos — to swell 5 percent this holiday with e-commerce sales jumping 20 percent over the same period last year.

“Between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, you can expect overall U.S. retail sales — excluding automotive — to come in 50 percent higher than 10 years ago — and 19 percent higher than just five years ago,” Sadove noted in the report. “E-commerce sales this season should be especially strong, up 104 percent for the entire season compared to five years ago.”

But Sadove said the real story this year “is about the integrated consumer experience,” he told WWD adding that the convergence of online and in-store shopping is being fully realized.

“The consumer is in a very good place right now,” Sadove said. “Confidence is high. Spending is high. And it is occurring across all segments of retail.”

Sadove noted Home Depot’s robust sales and earnings results earlier this week. Strong profits surpassed analysts’ expectations on same-store sales in the U.S. that rose 5.4 percent. On deck to report is Macy’s and Nordstrom, “and the anticipation is that the numbers will be good,” Sadove added.

Sadove described the holiday season as starting earlier and “has extended through the post-Christmas week.” But Black Friday remains the “official kickoff” with the entire Thanksgiving weekend playing a critical role in sales momentum.

“Pass the gravy,” Sadove said in his report. “Holiday buyers are really going to be loading up their plates — with overall sales on Thanksgiving weekend up 19 percent compared to five years ago and e-commerce up 137 percent. And they have an entire buffet of options for engagement.”

In the report, Sadove said the way consumers buy and make buying decisions has evolved. “In-store shopping, online purchasing and blended experiences, such as ‘buy online/pick up in store’ are all on the menu,” he said. “In particular, commerce via social media platforms and other emerging business models are reshaping the face of marketing and sales. Consumers are looking at what’s in their pockets, and they’re finding their phones as well as their wallets, with about 80 percent of purchase decisions being affected by mobile.”

The weekend before Christmas is also pegged to be strong. Mastercard SpendingPulse is forecasting that Dec. 23 “will see about the same sales volume as Black Friday, Nov. 23.” Sadove did acknowledge that 2019 might see some challenges, though. “There could be volatility,” he said. “Perhaps some inflation. But for now, retail is looking good.”

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