If you’re a reluctant shopper, you have lots of company. Fifty percent of Americans polled by CBS News last month said they dreaded holiday shopping versus 42 percent saying they looked forward to the experience.
To make retailers even more unhappy, 61 percent of the respondents said they would not go shopping at all during Thanksgiving weekend, while 36 percent said they would go but only 2 percent planned to shop on Thanksgiving Day. The overwhelming majority — 76 percent — said the stores should be closed that day, a tradition worth saving but now lost to the insatiable drive for sales and profits.
The dread factor apparently came into play for so-called Black Friday, traditionally the biggest day for retailers. This year on Black Friday, shopping traffic in brick-and-mortar stores dropped 11.4 percent and retail sales sank 13.2 percent compared to last year’s figures, reported ShopperTrak, which keeps track of the data.
However, the new push for Thanksgiving Day store openings made a difference for retailers. ShopperTrak estimated shopper traffic for both Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday increased 2.8 percent and retail sales rose 2.3 percent compared to last year’s numbers. So more people went shopping on the holiday this year.
There’s a new pattern of shopping in this electronic age. Bill Martin, founder of ShopperTrak, confirmed in a news release, “Consumers increasingly research products online before entering stores. When they arrive, customers know exactly what they want to buy.” It’s up to the stores to “provide their customers a quality shopping experience that creates incentive to purchase immediately.”
But retailers face another challenge this year. A Gallup poll released two weeks ago showed that 37 percent of respondents planned to spend less on gifts this year and 10 percent said they would spend more. The average shopper planned to spend $704, a fairly significant drop from $770 last year. This year’s outlook is a long way from the $866 average shopping in 2007 before the Great Recession struck.
Another factor holding down store traffic is online shopping. Online sales last Thursday jumped nearly 20 percent over last year, reported IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, based on its tracking of about 800 U.S. retail websites. On Friday, online sales increased nearly 19 percent.
And, not surprising in this increasingly mobile-phone-device age, almost 40 percent of all online traffic Friday came from mobile users, according to an official with IBM Smarter Commerce. Tablets accounted for 14 percent of online sales versus 7 percent for smartphones. Target.com on Thursday had the highest volume of traffic and sales ever for one day, and Wal-Mart had almost 400 million page views Thursday.
Shopping online is easy, but there’s no substitute for up close and personal examination of the merchandise. And there’s no way the kids can sit on Santa’s knee online.
Merry Shopping and Happy Bargains!