Alexa Driansky, senior vice president in the retail practice of AlixPartners, discusses the findings of the firm’s latest forecast for retail holiday sales in the U.S.
The forecast reveals that the holiday shopping season “has already started,” says Driansky, noting that the kickoff this year was Amazon Prime Day on October 13. Rival retailers have followed up with their own “mega sales” events. Amazon’s move, she adds, signals an expansion of the year-end holiday season to include October, rendering the old two-month span of November and December “meaningless.”
The shift is being driven in large part by retailers’ desire to boost holiday sales through a longer shopping season. But it’s also motivated by consumers, 50% of whom said they plan to start holiday shopping this year before Halloween. Sixty-one percent cited concerns over health and safety, leading to more purchases online, as a reason for their earlier leap into the holiday mania.
AlixPartners forecasts a 1% to 2.6% increase in retail sales for the October-to-December period this year, compared with the same three months of 2019. But the bonanza won’t be spread evenly among all retailers. High-income consumers will be shopping more, Driansky says, and the middle market will struggle, continuing a years-long trend that has resulted in multiple bankruptcies by big department chains and specialty apparel retailers.
The three-month shopping spree “is here to stay,” Driansky says. At the same time, the importance of Black Friday, which drove huge numbers of shoppers into retail stores on the day after Thanksgiving, will diminish in importance. To prepare for the changes, she says, retailers must focus their efforts on boosting supply-chain agility, breaking down organizational silos, and speeding up their ability to glean insights into demand from data.
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