Holiday 2018 will be an interesting one. It will have similarities to both 2017 and 2016, the common thread being the timing factor. While the focus of holiday shopping is often on the ‘what’ – what is being promoted, what consumers are buying, what the hot new item is – like the past two years, the ‘when’ will play as critical a role as the ‘what’ this holiday season.
On the front end, the mid-term elections bring back memories of 2016 with potentially distracting early season noise. But the strength of these political distractions won’t be long-lasting – with official promotions which starting as early as November 1st, and based on what we saw after the 2016 national election, consumers will soon embrace the holiday mindset.
Almost half of consumers said that they plan to start shopping before Thanksgiving, a trend that has held relatively steady over the 15+ years of NPD’s Holiday Purchase Intentions survey. In the last few years, the most dramatic shift has come from the number of mid-season shoppers (Black Friday/Thanksgiving weekend/Cyber Monday) surpassing the number of those who plan to start shopping later. The number of consumers who plan to holiday shop up until the last minute has also declined. With fewer ‘last minute Charlies’ and widespread early deals stealing from the back-end of this shopping season, we should gear up for another front-loaded holiday.
However, the return of Super Saturday offers an opportunity for a late season boost. With Christmas landing on a Tuesday, the weekend prior becomes even less about travel than last year. This opening for last minute spending should not be ignored by retailers. Here is where the combination of the ‘when’ and ‘what’ become particularly important. There may be fewer consumers planning on waiting till the last minute, but they are still out there and the stores that have what these shoppers are looking for in stock will win.