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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.
Execpted 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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Labor disputes on the West Coast could cause further disruption heading into peak season.
When the first half of 2023 is complete, imports are expected to dip 22% below last year.
That’s according to new data from the Global Port Tracker, which is compiled monthly by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.
The decline has been building over the entire year, as imports dipped in the winter. With the spring, volume started to rebound. In April, the major ports handled 1.78 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units. That was an increase of 9.6% from March. Still it was a decline of 21.3% year over year – reflecting the record cargo hauled in over the spike in consumer demand of 2021 and the inventory glut 2022.
In 2023, consumer spending is remaining resilient with in a strong job market, despite the collision of inflation and interest rates. The economy remains different from pre-pandemic days, but shipping volumes are beginning to once again resemble the time before COVID-19.
“Economists and shipping lines increasingly wonder why the decline in container import demand is so much at odds with continuous growth in consumer demand,” said Hackett Associates Founder Ben Hackett, in a statement. “Import container shipments have returned the pre-pandemic levels seen in 2019 and appear likely to stay there for a while.”
Retailers and logistics professionals alike are looking to the second half of the year for a potential upswing. Peak shipping season occurs in the summer, which is in preparation for peak shopping season over the holidays.
Yet disruption could occur on the West Coast if labor issues can’t be settled. This week, ports from Los Angeles to Seattle reported closures and slowdowns as ongoing union disputes boil over, CNBC reported. NRF called on the Biden administration to intervene.
“Cargo volume is lower than last year but retailers are entering the busiest shipping season of the year bringing in holiday merchandise. The last thing retailers and other shippers need is ongoing disruption at the ports,” aid NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “If labor and management can’t reach agreement and operate smoothly and efficiently, retailers will have no choice but to continue to take their cargo to East Coast and Gulf Coast gateways. We continue to urge the administration to step in and help the parties reach an agreement and end the disruptions so operations can return to normal. We’ve had enough unavoidable supply chain issues the past two years. This is not the time for one that can be avoided.”