Is the 2019 Christmas Season Going to be Naughty or Nice?

by Cindy Hanauer

Cindy HanauerLet me start with the naughty. The 2019 Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday season will lose an entire week of selling, thanks to a U.S. Thanksgiving Day that’s six days later than last year. Oh, yes….. look at your calendar!

So, what’s the “nice” part, you ask?  In lieu of the shorter selling cycle, the National Retail Federation is forecasting November and December holiday sales to increase between 3.8% and 4.2% this year. Over the past five years, holiday retail sales have increased an average of 3.7%.

But specific to our industry, there have been two looming factors on the forefront that could adversely affect 2019’s holiday sales performance- namely the unrest in Ecuador and the trade war with China. The massive anti-government protests have crippled Ecuadorian transportation and other service areas for the past two weeks. In fact, the transportation unions themselves were first to organize the national strike, blocking roads and major thoroughfares. 

Although the U.S. and China are set to resume trade talks later this month, there remains an air of uncertainty in the minds of the consumer who have become concerned about the long-term effects of this conflict.

So, how will the shorter Thanksgiving-to-Christmas sales cycle affect retailers who are trying to stuff year-over-year financial gains into Santa’s already-overflowing pouch?  How will the trade wars and political unrest affect your company, as you are trying to proactively stock your customers’ coolers and sales floor with the products they’ll need to achieve a successful season?  

Here are five important tips to strengthen your company’s financial performance during this volatile holiday season:

Be Prepared for Earlier Demand

Your savviest customers will realize there’s a shorter holiday calendar in 2019 and begin an earlier push this year. In an attempt to chalk up additional revenue before Thanksgiving, expect many of your customers to push extra hard in October and continue to press the sales accelerator after Halloween and into the first two weeks of November.  How to prepare?  Pay special attention to your October and early November stock levels to make sure that your customers have everything they need to pack on the extra revenue before the gap week occurs between Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

Pay Special Attention to your e-Commerce Customers

In the same way that many of your customers may be surprised at the shorter holiday sales calendar this year, the consumer will be caught off guard, as well.  Pay special attention to the needs of your customers who manage e-commerce businesses and be ready for the extra demand between December 7-December 14th-the deadline for ground packages to arrive by Christmas.  This deadline will be unexpected to the consumer, and therefore creating a last-minute rush for products during this week.

Promote on “The Edge”

Today, almost one in ten purchases are made as a result of the deluge of emerging marketing points of social media, voice engagement and other messaging platforms.  These touchpoints that occur outside of the store are known as, “the edge”.  Younger shoppers are 3.5 times more likely to shop on “the edge”, with 75% of digital purchases coming from a mobile device.  How times have changed!  In addition to your own “edge marketing”, how can you assist your best customers with their edge marketing- creating great product images, ghost blogging services, holiday-specific lifestyle shots?  This is the final push to year-end and the perfect time to live on the edge!

Organize SMART Deals

Nobody likes a “penny-pincher”, but helping your customers take advantage of SMART Deals - product flushes, over-stocks and, clearance items- will help them keep the profit ship afloat during the 4th quarter while your company stays profitable, as well.  Plan Q4 promotions in advance by purging hard goods storage areas for great offers and survey your growers for products that they can offer at a low cost, too.  Challenge your crack designer to come up with attractive holiday designs using “off-holiday” colors.  Add those ideas to your SMART Deals packet to suggest ways that low-cost goods can be converted to huge holiday profits for your retail customers.  The secret?  Advance planning!  Get those SMART Deals ready!

Know the Latest Holiday Trends

There’s still room for holiday glitz and glamour, but the most important trend for the 2019 holiday season will be a return to nature: woods, branches, and pinecones.  Greens, reds, and gold will be prominent as always during the Christmas season, but blue shades will be on the rise in 2019, as well.  Warm lighting is experiencing a resurgence, as consumers are looking for a peaceful relief from the hectic and uncertain world around them. 

Share Your Thoughts

  • What kind of changes are you seeing in 2019 buying patterns?
  • Have you seen your online business grow at a higher rate than walk-in traffic?  The most recent data reports that online purchasing is outperforming the growth of offline purchasing by 20%.
  • Are you experiencing any surprises in color and product trends so far in 2019?

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