LMC survey: Holidays are coming and season looks good for retail

There are only 26 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year — the shortest possible time between the two holidays.

That means fewer days spent roaming the halls of malls for retail sales, however, Levin Management Corp.‘s eighth annual Pre-Holiday Sentiment Survey showed strong optimism during this key sales period.

The North Plainfield-based commercial real estate firm’s survey found 27.7% of respondents expect peak seasonal sales to happen before Thanksgiving, with 28.5% saying sales will peak on Black Friday/Thanksgiving weekend.

According to LMC CEO Matthew K. Harding, the statistics, mirrored by major retailers launching their holiday promotions in late October and early November, are significant.

“When we launched our Pre-Holiday Survey in 2012, 15.3% of participants expected peak sales during the Black Friday weekend,” Harding said. “Discussion of ‘seasonal creep’ was just beginning at that point; when we first asked about pre-Thanksgiving sales in 2013, only 13.5% of our respondents thought their peak would come so early. Today, well more than half of participants — a pool drawn from Levin’s 105-property, 15 million-square-foot leasing and management portfolio — are gearing up for a busy November.”

Levin Management Corp.
Matthew K. Harding, CEO of Levin Management Corp.

Nearly 9 in 10 survey takers (88%) said holiday sales will meet or exceed last year’s level. LMC said robust year-to-date sales and traffic likely contributed to the positive outlook, with 71.4% reporting the same or higher year-to-date sales and 67.8% reporting same or higher year-to-date traffic.

“Our retailers are excited about the holiday season, and with good reason,” Harding said. “A recent study by the International Council of Shopping Centers concludes that holiday spending in 2019 will increase 4.9% year over year, with 90% of adults in the United States planning to shop in-store for holiday gifts and goods. Deloitte forecasts up to a 5% year-over-year jump in holiday sales. Barring any unforeseen or accelerated socioeconomic issues, all indicators are looking good.”

LMC retailers said they take a number of measures to maximize holiday sales and the customer shopping experience. During the peak sales period, more than one-third of respondents said they are planning special sales and promotions (38.8%) and boosted inventory (37.2%).  Others are adding staff and planning in-store events. For the entire holiday season, about 40% said they are hiring seasonal staff.

“There is a growing emphasis on customer satisfaction and convenience, as brick-and-mortar retailers continue to find ways to differentiate themselves from e-commerce and other physical-store competitors,” Melissa Sievwright, LMC vice president of marketing, said. “Our survey asked store managers whether they are trying anything new this year to enhance their clients’ holiday shopping experience. Nearly 30% reported they are ‘upping the ante,’ with first-time offerings such as entertainment, an increased variety of products and services, and offerings like in-store pickup and returns for online purchases.”

Technology also plays a big role in retail marketing, according to Sievwright.

“While ‘impulse buys’ will always be part of the mix – evidenced by the high volume of ancillary in-store sales generated by shoppers picking up online orders – today’s consumer is likely to research higher-ticket items online before making their in-store purchases,” she said. “Further, they are using their mobile devices in real-time to grab coupons and compare pricing before they check out.”

More than three quarters (77.1%) of survey participants said they are using technology for 2019 holiday marketing. Almost half (47.3%) of those participants said they have increased their amount of tech-centered marketing this year.

“Many are embracing new-to-their-company tools including social media, text messaging and others in their marketing mix,” Sievwright said. “These survey findings are encouraging. There is no doubt we are living in a digital world, and retailers who embrace this fact are best positioned to thrive.”