A few thoughts on retail:
Black Friday has Moved to Thursday: As I predicted last year, stores are opening earlier for Black Friday this year. ToysRUs jumped the gun in 2010 and opened at 10PM on Thursday. Each ToysRUs store landed 1,000+ shoppers – the largest crowds of any retailer largely because there was nothing else open. I predicted then that stores would open earlier and that is exactly what is happening. Target was one of the first to announce that they would open at Midnight (and are even opening some Denver-area stores on Thanksgiving). Macy’s, BestBuy and others have subsequently announced they’ll also open at Midnight. Beyond store openings, I’ve been saying for awhile that online shopping will set new records on Thursday. A recent survey from Accenture suggests in-store traffic could be the lowest in 3 years. ShopperTrak is also forecasting store traffic will be down this year.
The Rise of Social: the use of social networking sites by retailers isn’t new, but their use heading into the 2011 holiday season is pronounced. Walmart, HHgregg, and others are pushing consumers to their Facebook page for early Black Friday deals and promises of the first glimpses of their actual Black Friday offerings. ToysRUs released their annual holiday catalog early to followers on Facebook.
Daily/Timed Deals: We’re all familiar with the rise of daily deal sites like LivingSocial and recently public Groupon. This holiday season traditional retailers are increasingly offering daily or timed deals. Amazon offered a variety of deals in and around Black Friday last year and is already offering limited and timed “lightening deals” again this year on their Black Friday site amazon.com/blackfriday. This year, retailers like Sam’s Club, Walmart, and others are offering daily deals/offers.
The Use of Mobile: The use of mobile will be more pronounced than ever this holiday season. The increase in smartphone/tablet ownership together with Thanksgiving turning into a big day for online retail will have mobile e-commerce setting giant records. Sam’s Club and others are using mobile apps. ToysRUs is adding QR codes to their annual holiday catalog driving customers to additional content
LayAway: The jury is still out if lay away will be a big driver, but Walmart has brought it back after ending the practice in 2008. Their focus is on tech and toys. ToysRUs and others are also offering lay away options.
Price Guarantee: Last month Walmart announced they would match lower advertised prices for any purchases made between November 1 and December 25th. Notably, they’ll match the price by providing the difference in the form of a Walmart giftcard.
Consumer Tech: ToysRUs is making a stronger push into consumer electronics (more on their assortment at CEPro). Tech is the new Toy kids most want. A different sign that games are changing for kids – GameStop is entering the tablet business.
Lower Inventories this Year Might Suggest Fewer Deals: Inventories remain well managed, even perhaps thin headed into the final months of the year. That might suggest fewer bargains to be had. Read more in the WSJ.
Finally, an infograph on holiday spending: