Holiday shopping

E-commerce Looms Large in Holiday Retail Forecasts

Will you brave the holiday-crazed discount shoppers clamoring for a deal this Black Friday? Or play it cool from your couch on Cyber Monday, filling up your digital shopping cart with e-commerce conquests galore? Or maybe you’re a traditionalist – driving to a suburban shopping mall and parking on a 5,000-space surface parking lot to do your holiday spending.

Regardless of your retail approach, the 2016 holiday season is poised to be one for the record books when it comes to online shopping. Forecasts anticipate consumers will spend more on holiday gifts than ever before, surpassing 2015 numbers by 3.3 percent, according to CBRE’s Fall 2016 US Retail Holiday Trends Guide.

Here are four key trends experts predict we’ll see in holiday retail sales this year:

  • Explosive E-commerce Sales.
    PricewaterhouseCoopers’ 2016 Holiday Report predicts an almost 25 percent increase in annual digital sales, and retailers are preparing for record-high numbers by investing in their omnichannel platforms. Consumer feedback points to social media as a key influencer in shopping behavior, especially for millennials and Gen Z. Expect to see retailers taking advantage of the “Buy” button on Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube, among other tools.
  • Protecting Profit Margins for Delivery and Returns.
    Competing with the likes of Amazon is no easy task. Retailers who recognize the importance of quick delivery and no-hassle returns have invested in their logistics and delivery infrastructure in preparation for the holiday season. “Retailers are even partnering with third-party players like Uber and Lyft to fill gaps in their distribution networks,” according to Melina Cordero, CBRE’s head of retail research in the Americas.
  • An Increase in “Rogue Retail.”
    Retailers aiming to bring customers back to brick-and-mortar stores will up their experiential offerings, with unique concepts like pop-up-shops and food trucks that add another layer of interaction to the typical shopping experience. “Rogue retail is a less expensive way to expand [retailers’] footprint and product offerings,” Cordero points out.
  • A Shifting Holiday Calendar.
    With a late election, early Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day on a Sunday this year, the sales calendar looks different than years past. Shopping also tends to slow before an election. Increased competition between retailers and a slower start in early November mean we may see a sudden increase in promotions as retailers work to catch up on sales and look to stock more inventory.

In the context of the current economic landscape, a strong dollar, low gas prices and a strong labor market, among other factors, have helped contribute to consumer confidence and purchasing power. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ report points out that while the economy as a whole grew at an annualized 1 percent in the first half of the year, consumer spending posted a healthy 3 percent gain. Following this holiday shopping season, how the political landscape following the U.S. presidential election may alter consumers’ long-term behavior remains to be seen.

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