A number of newspapers around the country are wondering what’s going on with the holiday shopping season as it relates to consumers.
Here are my answers and predictions which may give you further insight into what is going on at a mass retailing level and what consumers are expecting. It also may help give you some insight as to what the big guys are doing.
Are consumers, more than ever, in charge this holiday? What should they be looking for from retailers?
Consumers are in charge already. Never have retailers been in such a tough spot. In checking out what’s going on, I’ve seen everything from “20% off the entire catalog” to “Buy One, Get the Second at 50% off on everything in the store” to “30%, 40%, 50%, and even 60% off.” Consumers should shop now to not only get the deals but to ensure there will be inventory of the hottest gifts since retailers have cut inventories significantly.
Do you expect more well-known retailers to pare operations and/or file for bankruptcy in 2009?
It’s happening already. Many, if not most retailers aren’t rolling out new stores next year except in cases where they’ve already signed the deals. That means that construction and real estate departments are being laid off which in turn impacts all other departments within the retail industry which in turn impacts the real estate development and construction companies and industries. We’re not through with bankruptcies either. Many retailers are holding their cards close to their chest right now and it’s tough to tell what’s really going on financially with retailers — poor financial results and plummeting stock prices don’t mean anything these days — even successful retailers are getting hammered by Wall Street.
What are some of the hottest deals out there for consumers this year?
Just look at any store, take a stroll through a mall. It doesn’t matter which category of retailing they’re in, everyone is on sale. Apparel retailers seem to be offering unparalleled deals with up to 70% off in some stores. Department stores have a large quantity of their merchandise at 30-40% off, especially designer collections that shouldn’t be on sale from a brand perspective. And that’s great news for consumers. You won’t find consumable products on sale like beauty products but department stores are offering across the board savings through coupons and credit cards and you can use those across most items in the store. Wal-Mart and other discount retailers began their holiday push weeks ago with low prices on toys. Many online retailers are offering free shipping, even without a minimum purchase.
Consumers’ inboxes and mailboxes are deluged with holiday discounts, retailers advertising huge discounts, free shipping, etc. What are some retailers doing to set themselves apart?
Retailers are doing everything they can to set them selves apart, but that’s mainly coming from out-discounting each other, which really isn’t doing anything to set themselves apart. I’ve been a big advocate of doing gifts-with-purchase, events and other non-discount-oriented promotions to compete. However, trying to get that message across in a retailing world that’s blaring discount is like trying to sell sand in the desert. Walking through a mall is like running the discount gauntlet. You’re being screamed at to stop in every store to see their deals.