What’s in store for the holiday shopping season? Thanks to a longer-than-usual period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, sales could perform well this year. In fact, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts retail sales will rise 3.6 percent to 4 percent this holiday season compared to the 2016 holiday season.
However, there are some changes brewing this year that could affect both small retail businesses and small businesses overall. Here are some of the holiday retail trends expected to shape the season:
Online sales may surpass physical sales
For the first time ever, consumers report plans to spend more money online than in physical stores this holiday season, according to a recent survey of 4,000 Americans by Deloitte. Shoppers plan to do 51 percent of their shopping online compared with 42 percent in stores. This bodes well for companies with e-commerce operations—even if those companies also have traditional physical stores.
Small businesses might have to compete even harder more as e-commerce grows over the holiday season. This can mean ramping up customer service or adding events and promotions that lure shoppers into the stores. Some small retailers, for example, offer extended-hour shopping events with food and beverages for shoppers along with music. Many provide free gift wrapping.
Retailers are pushing early deals and sales
More stores are staying closed on Thanksgiving this year, but retailers overall have been pushing October and November promotions and discounts in hopes the early bird really does get the worm. “Black Friday has become black November,” Steve Barr, head of the U.S. retail and consumer sector for accounting firm PwC, told the Los Angeles Times.
Try not to forget your business purchase needs: this could be a boon for small business owners looking to make purchases this holiday season, whether a new computer, new desks or even gifts for employees or clients. The deals could start early, so it can be worth shopping now.
Shoppers are turning to technology more than ever
Even when consumers shop in physical stores, they’re using technology to inform their shopping decisions. According to the NRF, six in 10 shoppers plan to use an online wish list to tell their friends and family what they want as gifts — or to get gift ideas from their loved ones. Moreover, online reviews, apps offering discounts and promotions and other shopper tools are being used to help shoppers find deals and decide what to buy.
That means small businesses should consider being aware of these technologies and try to incorporate them into their own practices. Some small retailers already have their own mobile apps and use them for loyalty programs and to give customers special deals. But they should also try to make sure they have a strong online presence and positive online reviews — because two-thirds of shoppers check online reviews before heading to a store.
The retail environment is changing quickly and the holiday season is when trends become more obvious than ever. It’s good for small businesses to stay ahead of the game.