Shorter Holiday Selling Season Calls for Creative Retailing

Posted by: Laura Hills, VP Marketing

Retailers aren’t letting a shorter holiday selling season in 2013 [there were 32 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2012 but only 26 days this year] dampen their sales expectations as they gear up for this year’s holiday shopping.

As evidence of the optimistic outlook, the National Retail Federation (NRF) reported that the country’s retail container ports are anticipating a 5.1% increase in the number of cargo containers in September 2013 over September 2012.  Import volume at the New York and New Jersey ports is expected to rise 10.6% over 2012 in the fourth quarter of this year and first quarter 2014 deliveries are expected to increase 6.7% over 2013.  It looks like retailers are eager to stock up to be ready to meet customer demands.

Several factors are contributing to the positive outlook for holiday sales.  Ben Hackett, founder of Hackett Associates who produced the NRF’s Global Port Tracker Report noted that “Second quarter GDP was well above expectations and surprised most forecasters, the unemployment picture is improving, and we believe consumer confidence will translate into increased sales during the fourth quarter.”  Despite ongoing concerns related to the shorter selling season, the consumer spending impact of a government shutdown, increased payroll taxes, unemployment levels, and small income gains, the National Retail Federation expects U.S. sales in November and December to rise 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion. That would surpass the 3.5 percent increase seen in 2012 and average growth of 3.3 percent over the past decade.  Retailers have already started the big holiday push and will keep this up to attract shoppers across all channels.

Retailers who don’t want to wait for Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming up with creative ways to attract customers sooner.  Here are some suggestions to attract more people to your site this holiday season:

  • Be mobile optimized.  You can’t ignore the trend.  More and more shoppers are using smart phones, tablets and other mobile devices not only to browse, but also to shop and place orders.  There’s no telling when, where and on what device your shoppers will be accessing your site so it’s up to you to be sure everything looks great and works well across all devices and across all of your shopping channels.
  • Have real people available to respond to inquiries.  Help shoppers resolve any ordering issues that they encounter.  Don’t lose or frustrate customers by not being able to talk to a ‘live’ person during the holiday season.
  • Put together gift suggestion guides on your website and email the link to your loyal customers.  It’s not always easy coming up with just the right gift and shoppers will appreciate your help.
  • Attract early shoppers by starting now.  Twenty percent of shoppers will start their holiday shopping in October, so don’t wait for Black Friday to get their attention.  Time your promotions and let customers know that you’re fully stocked and ready to meet their holiday shopping needs.
  • Plan a holiday season contest.  Contests are a good way to drive business and get new customers for your brand.  According to Listrak, three to four percent of recipients of contest offers place orders from the registration confirmation email.  Contests such as name Santa’s newest elf will engage shoppers.  Encouraging your audience to vote for their favorite names enables you to widen your reach even more.

For additional information on how to be prepared for the upcoming holiday season, access our on demand webinar, “The Top 5 Insights to Help Prepare for Season and Holiday Rushes.”  Happy selling!


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