US Holiday retail sales to beat last year’s growth with 4-4.5% hike – Deloitte

NEW YORK, USA - DECEMBER 3: Luxury shop in 5th Avenue, decorated as a Chirstmas gift. New York City, USA, 3rd December 2010

US Holiday retail sales are forecast to rise by 4-4.5% this year with upbeat economic indicators set to prompt a “moderate” gain in spending, while the power of digital interactions on consumer spending is also expected to be demonstrated by influencing half of all physical store sales as well as driving a significant gain in online sales too. Deloitte’s annual retail Holiday sales forecast puts expected spending this year at $981bn-$986bn in the November-January period, with the growth rate being better than last year’s 2.8%.

“Income, wage and job growth are positive indicators heading into the Holiday season,” said Daniel Bachman, Deloitte’s senior US economist. “Debt levels remain at historical lows, and stock market gains coupled with increasing home prices have a wealth effect on consumers, which may encourage increased spending compared with prior years. Although consumers are watching tensions unfold in the Middle East and Ukraine, the improvement in their economic situation should more than offset the foreign conflicts’ impact on consumer confidence and retail sales. Despite recent events in energy-producing areas of the world, gas prices have held steady, which may also sustain consumers’ spending power.”

Non-store sales, which include both online and mail-order sales, are forecast to grow by 13.5%-14% but it is the broader impact of the internet that is being hailed as influential across channels.

“While online sales continue to climb, digital customer interactions through both virtual and physical store channels present greater sales opportunities than online or mobile commerce alone,” said Alison Paul, vice-chairman at Deloitte LLP. “Our research indicates that 84% of shoppers use digital tools before and during their trip to a store. Additionally, those shoppers convert, or make a purchase, at a 40% higher rate than those who do not use such devices during their shopping journey.”

But despite the forecast that interactions across desktop and laptop computers, smartphones and tablet will influence 50% of bricks-and-mortar sales this year – worth $345bn – Paul said that retailers need to be careful to add the right digital functionality that supports the path-to-purchase.

“Rather than offer their full e-commerce site on a mobile device, for example, retailers may be more effective by helping consumers compare prices, scan through local assortments, and navigate the store,” she said. “Retailers that better understand how consumers make purchasing decisions, then deliver tools that support that process in a way that is consistent and complementary across online, mobile and store channels – may have the advantage this Holiday season.”

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