The economy’s health and the presidential election take center stage among consumers this fall but, with holiday shoppers waiting in the wings, retailers should expect a modest increase in 2012 holiday sales, Deloitte forecasts.
“Economic headwinds nagging consumers this fall include stubbornly high gasoline prices that continue to creep up and soft housing and job markets,” said Carl Steidtmann, Deloitte’s chief economist. “While consumers turned out in the summer to give retailers solid gains for a few months, that pace may be difficult to sustain through the end of the year. Consumers and businesses alike may pause in advance of the election; however, retailers may benefit from a post-election consumer spending boost.”
Deloitte’s retail and distribution practice expects total holiday sales to climb to between $920 and $925 billion, representing a 3.5 to 4 percent increase in November through January holiday sales (excluding motor vehicles and gasoline) over last season. This growth rate is below last year’s 5.9 percent gain.
Additionally, Deloitte forecasts a 15 to 17 percent increase in non-store sales. Nearly three-quarters of non-store sales result from the online channel with additional sales coming from catalogs and interactive TV.
“Non-store sales continue to outpace overall growth, but increasingly influence consumers’ experience with the retail store, from trip planning, to in-store product research, and post-purchase reviews and sharing,” said Alison Paul, vice chairperson of Deloitte LLP and retail and distribution sector leader. “This holiday season, retailers’ most lucrative customers may be the ones they engage across physical and virtual storefronts.”
Paul noted that consumers might also consolidate or reduce trips to the store in response to higher gas prices. Conversely, she added, consumers are expected to keep a sharp eye on promotions and pricing, making retailers’ digital connections with consumers before and during each shopping trip even more critical this year.
Deloitte also anticipates that mobile-influenced retail store sales will account for 5.1 percent, or $36 billion, in retail store sales this year during the holiday season, driven by consumers’ store-related smartphone activity such as product research, price comparison or mobile application use.
“Retailers that welcome the smartphone shopper in their stores with mobile applications and Wi-Fi access—rather than fear the showrooming effect—can be better positioned to accelerate their in-store sales this holiday season,” said Paul.
Recent research from Deloitte indicates that shoppers armed with smartphones are 14 percent more likely to make a purchase in the store than those who do not use a smartphone as part of their in-store journey.