Christmas In July:
Sometimes the numbers
tell the story, and this year that story is all about the shift up
to an earlier, deeper and bigger holiday season, making the last
four months of the year more important than ever. As Wharton
marketing professor Stephen Hoch says, "It's like a mini-arms race.
The competition means nobody wants to be second."
Retailing's biggest season starts earlier every year, and
so do the opportunities
several years, the trend has been toward a holiday season that
starts almost as soon as Labor Day is over. One reason is
logistics: a longer season allows retailers to smoothly bring
products into the store without extra hiring. Building
capacity early avoids spikes in the supply chain and gives managers
that all important "read and react" opportunity so that fast sellers
can be restocked quickly.
same time, the end of the four month period is getting more
important. Last year, sales for the week ending December 24
increased a whopping 25.5% over the same period in 2004. In
fact, Friday the 23rd of December was the second biggest shopping
day of the year, behind only "Black Friday," the day after
Thanksgiving. (Source: ShopperTrak, National Retail Sales Estimate).
effect of these changes can be seen in this summary of annual retail
sales patterns. The last four months of the year now accounts
for over 40% of sales.
shift toward end of year buying is also occurring over a broad
range, with October and November also showing increases compared to
previous years. The implications: shoppers, spurred on by
early season bargains and other factors are both creating and
adjusting to the longer year-end season.
seasonality is not the only shift in consumer preferences.
According to Retail Forward, the number of stores Americans
frequented is falling, from an average of 20.1 in 2003 to 17.2
today. This consolidation, driven by time constraints and
higher gas prices, means that the stores that retain foot traffic
are filling the void by offering a greater variety of products than
result of these changes, shoppers are becoming more open to
promotions and impulse buying. In a recent survey,
commissioned by the International Council of Shopping Centers, it
was found that 48% of consumers spent more than they anticipated for
holiday gifts, a total of $620 on average.
wholesale buyer of merchandise for dollar stores or discount stores,
this all means you need to be ready for shoppers, who will start
looking for Christmas items earlier in the year. If you have
it, they'll buy it. If you don't, they'll get it somewhere
bottom line for retailers is clear. The last four months of
the year offer opportunities that simply don't exist at other times,
as shoppers begin to look early for bargains in stores that give
them the widest possible range of choices. By stocking early,
managers can capitalize on these trends and derive maximum sales
from their supply chain.