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Super-charged by increased mobile outreach, intensified consumer planning, and raised numbers of retailer mobile apps, traditional retailers will be going to work earlier, and working harder to engage consumers this season if they want their share of a projected individual $855.00 holiday spend, about 4% higher than last year. Sixteen-thousand (16,000) consumers from the 9 U.S. Census regions identified these real facts-of-retail-life in Brand Keys’ 20th annual national holiday shopping survey.

And many consumers missed Black Friday. That’s because it started last Saturday.  Surprised? Well, it shouldn’t have been a total surprise. Store checks conducted by Brand Keys found retailer displays of holiday greeting cards, giftwrap and Christmas-themed gifts already on display in October. Consumers shopping for Halloween candy, actually had to sort through themed packaging, because retailers had Christmas candy leitmotifs right next to the bat wing and witches-on-broomsticks packaged candy, for the same candy!

More than half of the sample indicated that they were going to start holiday shopping in November. In last year’s Holiday Shopping survey, 54% of consumers indicated they were going to start Holiday shopping in November, a trend we’ve commented upon for a number of years. Only 25% of consumers – 10% fewer than 2013 – indicated they were going to wait until Black Friday November 28th.

Amazon and Walmart kicked off their Christmas discounts on Saturday, November 1st – 27 days before the traditional Black Friday, which had long been regarded as the start of the holiday shopping season.  Amazon started its “Black Friday” Saturday with two daily deals on holiday merchandise that will run through December 22nd. Walmart’s chief merchandising officer, Duncan MacNaughton, said, “As soon as they put away their Halloween costumes, our customers start prepping for Thanksgiving buying Christmas trees and shopping for gifts.”

Ninety-eight percent of those interviewed indicated they’d buy holiday gifts online again this year, but no surprise there. And, even in light of the mobile movement, bricks-and-mortar retailers still rank high on consumers’ list of places they intend to shop:

Store Type                                                2014            % change from 2013


Discount Department Stores                   96%                                   +2

Traditional Department Stores               78%                                   +2

Specialty & Apparel Stores                      40%                                    – 5

Catalogues (25%), are down again from last year by 50%. And apparently if a consumer can pull it up on a site on a mobile device, hard-copy has become superfluous.

Oh, and spoiler alert: everybody is getting a gift card this year. Gift cards have become as universal as greetings cards, with 95% indicating they’ll buy at least one for someone.  All other categories remain relatively unchanged from 2013. Apps and downloads have replaced CDs, DVDs, and printed books.  Consumers indicated the following categories where money was going to be spent:

Clothing and Accessories                       78%

Electronics/Phones/Computer              51%

Personal Care Products/Spa                  33%

Jewelry                                                         20%

Food and Wine                                          20%

Home Décor                                                 7%

Value is still paramount for all platforms and consumer expectations regarding outreach and convenience, particularly for mobile, and the shopping experience for bricks-and-mortar retail, are all up again. Retailers that can integrate the store experience with their mobile outreach will likely find it to be a winning combination. They’re just going to have to do it much earlier this year.

But given the intense competition for consumer dollars, Department stores and specialty shops will have to become more aggressive on deals, promotions, and operating hours.

Because this year they won’t be able to avoid it.


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

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