The data has been collected but the results are confusing. How did the 2013 holiday season sales perform overall? Researchers seem to be divided on the numbers and what they mean to retailers. There’s no simple answer to the big question, “was 2013 a good holiday season for retailers?” Shopper Trak and the National Retail Federation (NRF) were divided in the first seasonal measure of Black Friday Sales. Shopper Trak reported a 2.3% gain while the NRF reported a 3.9% loss over 2012. The many reports and the varied metrics used to assess holiday sales have made the holiday season of 2013 hard to call.
MasterCard publishes a credit card purchases report; Shopper Trak uses data from its Shopper counting devices combined with cash register transaction information. The NRF hires a polling firm to ask consumers about their spending then makes estimates based on the responses. Online sales, reported as a separate category, contributed to the confusion. comScore which tracks eCommerce figures, reported a 10% increase in online sales; however they only includes purchases made from desktop computers, not mobile devices. Retail analysts warn that the real score for the season can’t be given in a single number – it is best to look for a separate scorecard for each retailer. Understandably, retailers play it close to the vest, remaining positive without sharing detailed information.
Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm maintains that the only holiday score that matters to retailers are their margins and whether they come out of the holiday season profitably. This is certainly true for small to medium-sized eCommerce retailers as they sort out their results. The big picture data may be helpful as a comparison to industry averages, but the only true and meaningful measure is how your business has performed.
As you review your 2013 holiday season results, determine where you succeeded and where you could improve. Were you visible in places where your shoppers could easily find and interact with you? Did you create the best possible shopping experience and did you handle all orders effectively and efficiently? Were there any bottlenecks in your back office operations that you could be improved this year. It’s worth the time to reflect on these questions now – it’s never too early to start thinking about the 2014 holiday season.
For additional perspectives behind keeping the retail forecast score, click here to read this article by NorthJersey.com’s Senior Writer, Joan Verdon.