By Joshua Burd
Retailers in and around New Jersey are optimistic heading into Black Friday, expecting sales to peak ahead of what will be a short window between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
That’s according to Levin Management Corp.’s eighth annual Pre-Holiday Retail Sentiment Survey, which drew from more than 100 tenants across its leasing and management portfolio. The real estate services firm noted that there are 26 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas — the shortest possible window — prompting an early start to the 2019 holiday buying season and an early chance to gauge sales activity.
To that end, 27.7 percent of survey respondents expected their peak seasonal sales to come prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, with 28.5 percent anticipating peak sales during the Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend, LMC said. Those findings mirror the industrywide trend of major retailers launching their holiday sales and promotions in late October and early November.
“When we launched our Pre-Holiday Survey in 2012, 15.3 percent of participants expected peak sales during the Black Friday weekend,” said Matthew K. Harding, the CEO of the North Plainfield-based firm. “Discussion of ‘seasonal creep’ was just beginning at that point; when we first asked about pre-Thanksgiving sales in 2013, only 13.5 percent of our respondents thought their peak would come so early.”
Today, Harding said, more than half of those participants said they were primed for a busy November.
LMC’s survey drew on participants from its 105-property, 15 million-square-foot leasing and management portfolio. Those respondents were largely enthusiastic about the holiday season, the firm said, noting that nearly 88 percent of respondents anticipate their holiday sales will meet or exceed last year’s level — the highest percentage in survey history.
Robust year-to-date sales and traffic likely contribute to the positive outlook, with 71.4 percent reporting the same or higher year-to-date sales, which was near last year’s historic high of 72.1 percent, the survey found. Meantime, 67.8 percent of participants reported the same or higher year-to-date traffic, which was a high for the history of the survey.
“Our retailers are excited about the holiday season, and with good reason,” Harding said. “A recent study by the International Council of Shopping Centers concludes that holiday spending in 2019 will increase 4.9 percent year over year, with 90 percent of adults in the United States planning to shop in-store for holiday gifts and goods.
“Deloitte forecasts up to a 5 percent year-over-year jump in holiday sales. Barring any unforeseen or accelerated socio-economic issues, all indicators are looking good.”
Additionally, LMC found that more than one-third of respondents are planning special sales and promotions and boosted inventory for their expected peak sales periods. Others are adding staff and planning in-store events for peak-sales days, while nearly 40 percent are adding seasonal staff for the full holiday period.
“There is a growing emphasis on customer satisfaction and convenience, as brick-and-mortar retailers continue to find ways to differentiate themselves from ecommerce and other physical-store competitors,” said Melissa Sievwright, LMC vice president of marketing. “Our survey asked store managers whether they are trying anything new this year to enhance their clients’ holiday shopping experience. Nearly 30 percent reported they are ‘upping the ante,’ with first-time offerings such as entertainment, an increased variety of products and services, and offerings like in-store pickup and returns for online purchases.”
Sievwright added that technology is playing an increasingly important role in retail marketing, a trend that will continue during the holidays.
“While ‘impulse buys’ will always be part of the mix — evidenced by the high volume of ancillary in-store sales generated by shoppers picking up online orders — today’s consumer is likely to research higher-ticket items online before making their in-store purchases,” she said. “Further, they are using their mobile devices in real-time to grab coupons and compare pricing before they check out.”
To that end, 77.1 percent of LMC Pre-Holiday Survey participants are using technology tools in their 2019 holiday marketing, according to a news release. More than 47 have increased their amount of tech-centered marketing this year.
“Many are embracing new-to-their-company tools including social media, text messaging and others in their marketing mix,” Sievwright said. “These survey findings are encouraging. There is no doubt we are living in a digital world, and retailers who embrace this fact are best positioned to thrive.”
LMC’s next Retail Sentiment surveys will be conducted in January, exploring outlooks for 2020, and in May, exploring technology trends and midyear sales performance.