When Are Holiday Shoppers Buying This Year? - eMarketer

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When Are Holiday Shoppers Buying This Year?

Most shoppers will be finished by mid-December

November 24, 2014

eMarketer predicts that retailers will experience a boost in holiday shopping sales this year. November and December retail sales are expected to climb 5%, the largest increase in holiday season sales in several years. The National Retail Federation (NRF), a retail industry trade association, released a more conservative estimate at 4.1%.

US Retail and Retail Ecommerce* Holiday Season Sales, 2012-2014

But when will shoppers flock to brick-and-mortar stores—and to ecommerce sites—to find the best gifts to bestow upon their loved ones? The CFI Group still puts its bets on Black Friday weekend.

According to its "2014 Holiday Retail Spending Report," shoppers will spend a larger percentage of their holiday gift-giving budgets over Black Friday weekend, a resurgence largely driven by cost conscious consumers who want more bang for their bucks.

Retailers are also doubling down on the prediction that consumers will shop on Black Friday with renewed vigor. Retailers hope that booming sales will offset costs of opening their stores earlier (and paying seasonal employees) and keeping items discounted for longer periods of time. Many stores—Kohl's and Wal-Mart among them—are opening their stores to flocks of holiday shoppers the evening of Thanksgiving beginning as early as 6pm. Black Friday's encroachment onto Thanksgiving's territory comes largely due to the pressure retailers face to boost holiday sales and compete with ecommerce retailers whose holiday promotions are available at any time of day and often at cheaper prices.

US Digital Retail Holiday Sales, by Shopping Day, 2014 (billions and % change)

For ecommerce sites in particular, the Adobe Digital Index predicted that Cyber Monday will edge out Black Friday as the most lucrative shopping day of the holiday season for retailers. Cyber Monday estimates weigh in at $2.60 billion and represent a 15% increase year-over-year. Black Friday came in just behind at $2.48 billion in estimated holiday retail sales, but its year-over-year growth (28%) suggests that Black Friday is on its way back to the top. Digital retail holiday sales are also creeping into Thanksgiving Day, as shoppers in the US begin checking off their to-do lists while they're waiting for Thanksgiving festivities to start—or while they're digesting Thanksgiving dinner.

Either way, CFI Group showed that 60% of shoppers will finish their holiday shopping in early- to mid-December, around the same time they did last year. Thirty percent of consumers said they will spend the bulk of their money between November and December 1, up 27% over the same weekend in 2013. That said, total basket size may remain small—perhaps smaller than last year—as only 20% of consumers in the survey reported they would spend more than $700 on gifts for their friends and family this holiday season.

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