News Feature | June 24, 2014

Holiday Planning For Retail VARs: How Soon Is Too Soon?

By Ally Orlando, contributing writer

Retail VARs Holiday Season

Retail companies spend much of their year planning for the holiday heyday that occurs between November 1 and December 31. That means VARs have to be one step ahead to get their clients ready for the season. But how soon is too soon — and is there such a thing?

VARs and their retail customers can look to statistics from the 2013 holiday shopping season for answers.

Last year, industry professionals were despondent in their predictions for holiday retail sales. Analysts anticipated a decrease in early shopping (pre-Black Friday) compared with years prior due to the shortage of shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas Day and the government shutdown in October 2013.

However, this was not the case.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) compared media coverage and research data collected during and after the 2013 holiday season to reflect consumer shopping trends, finding many predictions proved to be untrue. The organization compiled their findings in a report: “2013 Holidays: What You Heard vs. What Really Happened in Retail.”

Despite the government shutdown and shortage of shopping days, the consumer spending report showed that spending increased from 2012 and spending increased consistently across the season — not just in December.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the holiday season saw more early bird shoppers than not. Consumers also got an early start in 2012 — one in five started shopping before October.

In fact, consumers are not only shopping early, but also shopping late. They completed their lists at a slower pace than in previous years, the NRF reports.

Surprisingly, baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) led the late shopping trend. By the beginning of December, nearly half of baby boomers had only completed a quarter or less of their holiday shopping – and one in 6 hadn’t even started yet.

The NRF suggests that this is because the baby boomer generation is generally less confident in the economy than the average adult consumer, so the government shutdown caused them to be cautious.

The moral of the story: research shows that changes in the economy had little-to-no effect on consumers’ spending habits, especially their tendency to start holiday shopping before Black Friday — if your retail customers need to be ready as early as September, there is no time like the present to start putting solutions in place.

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