Is There Hope for Holiday Sales?

American Spa columnist Lisa Starr recently blogged about the outlook for holiday sales on GramercyOne's fabulous blog. She had some spectacular points and gathered very valuable research, so we're re-posting her blog here. Be sure to follow her GramercyOne blog for more great articles like the one below:

Black Friday acquired its name because it was traditionally the day in the annual calendar when retail merchants could look forward to going into the lack for the year, reaching their breakeven point.  It evolved into what is typically the largest single shopping day in the year, and a great deal of planning goes into the promotions and marketing for the four-day weekend, which is the kickoff to the holiday selling season in the US.

For Black Friday 2011, ShopperTrak estimates that sales were up 6.6% from the same period last year, compared with a .3% gain in 2010.  The National Retail Federation estimates that sales for the four-day period were up 16.45%, with the average spend over the weekend of $398.62, up 9.1% from last year.  Women’s Wear Daily estimates that there were a total of 226 million shoppers, between store and online sales, and that the total take for the weekend was $52.4b, against $45b in 2010.  In fact, sales for Black Friday itself were estimated at $11.4b, the highest single-day revenue ever recorded.  In a new experiment that looks likely, unfortunately, to be repeated, many big box and department store merchants opened their doors at midnight on Thanksgiving, and reported that the results were well worth the trouble.  Too bad for the folks who have to go back to work after their turkey and Beaujolais Nouveau!  Store and mall operators commented that the evening hours gave them the opportunity to offer live entertainment and more giveaways, creating a party-atmosphere backdrop for shopping.

As for the online component, comScore estimates that web sales for Black Friday were up 26% over last year, and Amazon third-party marketplace sales were as much as 50% higher than the same day in 2010.  One executive commented that the line between bricks and clicks continues to blur, as shopping trends change.  Cyber Monday, the day after the holiday weekend, was coined as a huge online sales day 6 years ago, when shoppers returned to work after the weekend of comparison shopping and used their high-speed workplace connections to complete sales.  In spite of the fact that we no longer have to go to our office to get a high-speed connection, the day engenders so much promotional and marketing activity that sales were up 18%, at $1.2b.

Two trends emerged that have relevance for spas and salons; the first was the continuing increase in the amount of mobile shopping.  Weekend estimates indicate that sales originating from iPads, iPhones and other smartphones comprised 9.8% of the sales total, up from 3.2% in 2010.  Deal site Rue La La reported that mobile sales represented 37% of total sales, and flash sale site Ideeli said revenue from mobile was up 230% from last year.  Ebay estimated that sales through Paypal on mobile devices rose 514% from last year, and IBM reported that 7.5% of total sales on Cyber Monday came from mobile devices.  The ability to purchase gift certificates through mobile devices has to be a component of any spa or salon’s ongoing technology upgrades, as purchasers become increasingly untethered from their desks.

The second trend was that of “personal purchases;” many consumers put off buying anything for themselves for much of 2011, but made for it while shopping for holiday gifts.  NPD group estimates that self-purchasing increased 44% over last year, so make sure you’re offering promotions for your gift card purchasers and holiday shoppers that either entice them back for a post-holiday service, or provide them with a little something for their own holiday stocking.

It’s not a home run yet; many analysts caution that, while it’s always good to kick off the sales season on a high note, it does not necessarily ensure that the great results of this past weekend will continue through Christmas.  Some analysts suggest that perhaps consumers just spent the same amount of money, but did so sooner.  However, seeing some lines at registers feels nice.  Let me know what your weekend results were!


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