Every year, projected holiday sales and trends give businesses important insight into what they may expect, prepare for, focus on, or improve for a successful holiday season. This year, forecasts vary as the National Retail Federation (NRF) has high hopes, projecting a 4.1% increase in holiday sales, while others, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) forecast the average holiday spending per household to drop to $684 from $735 last year.

While some holiday spending projections clash, many findings remain consistent, such as increased spending online, increased online research or pre-planning, as well as consistent price sensitivity among shoppers.

To save time, we’ve sorted through various 2014 holiday season forecasts and trends, noting the most interesting and important findings for your business:

The National Retail Federation (NRF) 2014 Holiday Sales Forecast

  • November and December sales (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) will increase 4.1% to $616.9 billion – Higher than 2013’s 3.1% increase.
  • Holiday sales are expected to represent 19.2% of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion.

“While expectations for sales growth are upbeat, it goes without saying there still remains some uneasiness and anxiety among consumers when it comes to their purchase decisions. The lagging economic recovery, though improving, is still top of mind for many Americans… Recognizing the need to keep household budgets in line, we expect shoppers will be extremely price sensitive as they have been for quite some time. Retailers will respond by differentiating themselves and touting price, value and exclusivity.” – Matthew Shay, NRF President and CE

Shop.org (a division of the National Retail Federation) 2014 eHoliday Survey

  • Online holiday sales in November and December of 2014 are expected to grow 8-11%, to as much as $105 billion.
  • 56% of holiday shoppers expect to do at least some of their holiday shopping online.
  • Online holiday shoppers plan to spend 16% more than all other holiday shoppers on gifts, decorations and food.
  • 92.3% of retailers plan to offer free standard shipping of some sort

Deloitte Annual Holiday Sales Forecast

  • 2014 holiday sales will increase 4-4.5% compared to last year’s 2.8% gain.
  • Non-store sales in the online and mail order channels during 2014 holiday season will increase 13.5-14%.
  • Digital interactions (use of computer, tablet and smartphone) will influence 50% of brick and mortar’s retail store sales this holiday season

“While online sales continue to climb, digital customer interactions through both virtual and physical store channels present greater sales opportunities than online or mobile commerce alone. Our research indicates that 84 percent of shoppers use digital tools before and during their trip to a store. Additionally, those shoppers convert, or make a purchase, at a 40 percent higher rate than those who do not use such devices during their shopping journey.

Retailers should focus on the right functionality, rather than more functionality, when creating digital experiences this holiday season. Rather than offer their full e-commerce site on a mobile device, for example, retailers may be more effective by helping consumers compare prices, scan through local assortments, and navigate the store. Retailers that better understand how consumers make purchasing decisions, then deliver tools that support that process in a way that is consistent and complementary across online, mobile and store channels — may have the advantage this holiday season.”  – Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail and distribution sector leader.

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) 2014 Holiday Outlook

  • Income divide is splitting American holiday shoppers into two distinct groups – Survivalists (67% of the US shoppers, earning less than $50K annually) and Selectionists (33% of US shoppers, earning more than $50K annually).

“The spending divide among shoppers is widening, creating two distinct groups that we are tracking – Survivalists and Selectionists – and retailers must cater to both segments. And with shoppers coming to expect a seamless omnichannel experience, deals to woo them into stores and having no tolerance for another season of data privacy invasion, it’s a complex retail landscape that retailers need to master – or they risk losing loyal shoppers.” — Steven Barr, US Retail & Consumer Practice Leader.

  • 84% of shoppers say they’re shopping for price.
  • 43% of holiday shoppers will shop based on the frequency and quality of seasonal deals like door busters and “BOGO” (buy one, get one free).
  • 50% of spending will occur in physical stores (down 55% from last year).
  • 43% of spending will occur online.
  • 41% of shoppers plan to increase online spending in 2014. “2014 could be the turning point when consumers make online pre-planning part of their holiday shopping tradition.” – PwC
  • 39% of online shoppers are “Tradeoff Shoppers” who shop around extensively and buy online if it’s cheaper.
  • 58% of spending will be on gift cards, the “hottest” category next clothing this year.

Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey

  • Consumer enthusiasm for Black Friday shopping has reached its highest level in eight years. Two-thirds of respondents (66%) said they are likely to shop on Black Friday, compared to 55% who planned to do so in 2013.
  • 71% of holiday shoppers plan to participate in “webrooming” – browsing online and then going into a store to make their purchase.
  • 68% of holiday shoppers say they are likely to participate in “showrooming” – going into a physical store to see a product and then searching online for a better price and making their purchase online, which is up from 63 percent in 2013.
  • 57% of respondents said they would likely buy items that were not part of their original purchase when they go into a store to pick up merchandise they purchased online and had shipped to the store or use an in-store pickup option.
  • Shipping issues during Christmas week last year have raised concerns among consumers this year. Almost half of survey respondents (49%) are concerned about receiving their deliveries from online purchases on time this year, and of those, nearly one out of five are “very” concerned.

“The holiday shopping season is one of the most competitive times of the year for retailers, but they also have a big opportunity to drive sales and acquire new customers… The majority of retailers look for ways to extend the holiday season as late as possible, but can face challenges in delivering a physical product in time. Personalized promotions and pushing gift cards are a good way for retailers to continue momentum and stretch this success into the post-holiday season.” – Dave Richards, global managing director, Accenture’s Retail practice.

Volusion Holiday Sales Trends

  • Holiday ecommerce sales will increase 9% for small-to-medium sized businesses.
  • Some industries are expected to outperform the general projection of 9% holiday growth. Top-performing small businesses will include arts and crafts merchants and home and garden.

“One big driver for this year’s holiday rush will come from mobile commerce, which further shows just how quickly consumers are diversifying their usage of devices when shopping online. In the second quarter of 2014 alone, Volusion merchants saw a 23% growth in mobile sales. One important thing to note, however, is that mobile still accounts for less than 15% of ecommerce sales, with the majority of purchases coming from desktop devices. In other words, mobile definitely matters, but your main ecommerce site will serve as your bread and butter for online sales this holiday season.” – Volusion

Nielsen 2014 Holiday Sales Forecast via USA Today

  • Minority consumers – Hispanics, African Americans and Asian Americans – will boost holiday sales more than the general population this Christmas, acting as a central driver of seasonal spending.
  • African Americans plan to spend 17% more on holiday items, and both Asian Americans and Hispanics plan to spend 13% more.
  • Middle income consumers (household income under $50K) will spend an average of 12% more than last year on holiday items vs. 8% more for consumers exceeding household incomes of $50K
  • Asian Americans are expected to exceed all consumers in online holiday shopping (one in four compared to one in five mainstream consumers).
  • While multicultural consumers expect to spend considerably more during the holiday season, 70% will “wait until later in the season” to do majority of their shopping.
  • All shoppers will spend 12% more on gift cards; 10% more on electronics and 10% more on toys

“This is a wake-up call… Holiday is just a reflection of what’s happening across the larger consumer retail landscape. This will continue well beyond the holiday season.” – James Russo, vice president of consumer insights at Nielsen. ”

To get your business in tip top shape for the busy holiday season based on all these findings, check out the following resources:

What are your thoughts on this year’s holiday sales forecasts? Do you agree or disagree with any of the findings? Let us know in the comments.

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© 2014 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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