Retailers eye big finish to holiday shopping with last-minute deals

158 million shoppers are expected on Super Saturday, NRF forecasts.

gift boxes
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The holiday shopping season is expected to see a big finish in 2022, as consumers hold out for deals in an unusually promotional environment.

So, in a year where shopping events began early, it is fitting that there will also be late deal events that draw heavy traffic.

Super Saturday, which arrives on Dec. 17, is expected to draw 158 million consumers to stores of the physical and digital variety, according to a survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. That figure would be about 10 million more shoppers than last year’s expected total for the final Saturday before Christmas, and the highest traffic since NRF began tracking the data for this shopping day in 2016.

As with the rest of the holiday season, this shopping will cross physical and digital channels. On Super Saturday, 28% of shoppers plan to shop only in-store, while 27% plan to shop online only. About 46% of consumers plan to shop across both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar.

The survey of 7,857 consumers showed that consumers are heading into the weekend saying they have completed about half of their purchases.

Top gift items so far include clothing (50%), toys (34%), gift cards (28%), books and other media (26%), and food or candy (23%). A further 28% are planning to gift an experience such as tickets, a gym membership or a class.

When it comes to payments, about 52% of consumers said they are using alternative payments or digital wallets. That’s up 44% from 2021. Top alternative methods are PayPal, Apple Pay and Cash App.

chart showing expected shoppers on Super SaturdayExecpted shoppers on Super Saturday, 2016-present. (Source: NRF)

“With Super Saturday falling eight days before Christmas, retailers are prepared to help shoppers fulfill their last-minute purchases that will make this holiday season memorable,” said NRF CEO Matthew Shay, in a statement.

This year’s holiday season comes against a backdrop of inflation and interest rate hikes that is leaving consumers seeking deals. Retailers have been discounting heavily to accommodate this, but executives have admitted it is a difficult year to forecast.

While strong Black Friday weekend numbers were reported across the ecosystem, brands and retailers have also been voicing expectations that last-minute purchases will be strong. The weekend arrival of Christmas allows for an extra Saturday in the season, and consumers are seeking to stretch their dollars as they show a willingness to take an extra look to get a better bargain.

“We see browsing, and they'll be waiting, we think, until later in the season, making sure they get the very best value that they can,” Signet Jewelers CEO Gina Drosos told analysts on the company’s earnings call last week.

In a year that saw October savings events, there are also signs that retailers want to galvanize energy around the last-minute push.

Amazon this week launched a new round of savings dubbed the Very Merry Deals event on Dec. 12, and it runs through Dec. 21.

Target, meanwhile, is promoting savings on Super Saturday, as well as the week leading up to Christmas. The retailer will also offer same-day delivery and pickup services on Christmas Eve.

Add these to holiday kickoff sales in October, Black Friday and Cyber Monday on the ecommerce holiday shopping calendar.

Retailers are expecting shopping activity to stay strong through the end of the year, as well. The NRF/Prosper survey indicated that 70% of consumers plan to shop after Christmas, as they use gift cards, seek out additional deals and return items. That volume of traffic would be in line with pre-pandemic patterns.

“This will be one of those years where we're watching sales closely up until the last minute of Christmas Eve, and then we'll do a lot of business after Christmas,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told analysts on the company’s recent earnings call.

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