This Thanksgiving Weekend and Cyber Monday, I hit the stores, the couch, and my desk to check out the deals and the traffic. Here is a quick recap of what I saw as the 2019 holiday shopping season really kicked into gear, maybe more for some than for others:

Footwear Hot, Accessories Not

In the department stores, the women’s footwear floors were busy. Boots and sneakers seemed to be the main draw, but the merchandising left a lot to be desired. The accessories departments were the neater and better-showcased product, but unfortunately, they were emptier (thus explaining the neatness). 

Cozy Overload

Who doesn’t want to feel warm and comfy during the holidays (or anytime, really)? Brands and retailers played into this aspiration big time with doorbusters on blankets, slippers, fuzzy socks, loungewear, and winter boots across all price points. This balanced out the chilly sensation that came over me when looking at all the Frozen II merchandise out there.

Big Brands, Big Discounts

The major accessories brands such as Coach, Michael Kors, and Kate Spade were not shy when it came to discounts, offering 30-50% off the bulk of their stores, but that didn’t seem to drive traffic. On the other hand, Pandora’s 25-35% off kept the crowds coming (#personalization).

…and Some Not-So-Big Discounts

UGG had one or two exclusive deals on Black Friday-specific items at major retailers, but most products remained full price. Online, the brand leveraged its separate UGG Closet clearance site for holiday promotions and additional discounting. Lululemon was the busiest store in the mall, with music pumping and a larger-than-usual seasonal product clearance rack, but no sales on core items. 

The thrill of the Hunt?

Off-Price retailers relied on the fact that their consumers are used to hunting (unpacked cartons on the floor!). They had some holiday merchandising and signage, but few specific deals. Kohl’s seemed to be playing by these same rules, as merchandise was piled high throughout the store – on floors, in aisles, on display tables, pretty much everywhere.

Distinctive Digital Native Drivers

My inbox and Instagram feed were filled with emails and posts from native digital brands. Some, such as M. Gemi, Dagne Dover, and Mejuri, offered rare discounts. Those that didn’t go the discount route focused on storytelling (e.g. Away), special holiday product drops (e.g. Allbirds, Rothy’s, Nobull), extras, like free monogramming (Mansur Gavriel, Cuyana), or giving back (e.g. Everlane).

Cyber Clutter

Sunday night and Monday, my inbox exploded with Cyber Monday (or Week) deals. Some were repeats of the weekend’s promotions, but others were ratcheted up a bit with extra percentages off or gifts with purchase. Aside from the occasional catchy subject line, I found it hard to cut through the noise and was simply overwhelmed. And, as I’m finishing this up on Tuesday morning, in addition to Giving Tuesday messages, many Cyber deals have been extended (shocker!). Up next: retailer Friends and Family sales.

All in all, while Black Friday may have brought fewer crowds to stores than in the past, those I saw and heard about suggesting it is still a viable shopping event. The deals were turned up for Cyber Monday (week), so we’ll need to evaluate the season as a whole and not just as individual shopping days. But it is important to understand how shopping patterns have changed – so brands/retailers can better manage promotions, inventory, and logistics, both online and off, throughout the season.