Haven’t bought holiday gifts yet? There’s still time with last-minute sales

by Andrew Wright
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Last-minute holiday sales

Haven’t completed your holiday shopping yet? Don’t worry, there’s still time to take advantage of last-minute sales.

Retailers are ramping up their efforts in the final days before Christmas to attract shoppers who have been waiting for the best deals or who simply didn’t have the time to finish their gift-buying earlier.

These last-minute incentives are an extension of the strategies that stores have been employing since as early as October this year to keep shoppers engaged. Some retailers have even placed items on clearance racks and shelves before the holiday season to entice bargain hunters. For instance, Michaels, the arts and crafts chain, slashed prices on holiday trees by up to 75% on December 15th, offering discounts that are typically seen after Christmas.

Amanda Rassi, the Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Michaels, acknowledged the challenges of this holiday season, saying, “I think this is a more challenging year than if you looked across the last decade of Christmases.” However, she also expressed overall satisfaction with how the season has unfolded.

Retailers had been concerned leading up to the holidays about Americans’ willingness to spend, given rising credit card debt and delinquencies, as well as declining savings. Nonetheless, the latest report on the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge indicates a decrease in prices. Yet, prices remain higher in certain areas like restaurants, car shops, and rent. Surprisingly, consumers increased their spending from October to November, underscoring their resilience despite the higher costs.

Retail analysts anticipate that overall sales will grow at a slower pace compared to last year, and there are concerns about how shoppers are financing their purchases. More people are opting for “buy now, pay later” plans this holiday season, with Adobe Analytics predicting a nearly 17% surge in the use of such plans. While this may benefit retailers in the short term, it could result in some shoppers accumulating more debt than they had initially planned.

Emily Irwin, Senior Director of Advice for Wells Fargo, emphasized the importance of paying off credit card balances in January, especially with higher interest rates this year. She cautioned, “It’s not a deal if you can’t pay for it in January.”

The National Retail Federation, the largest retail trade group in the U.S., anticipates a 3% to 4% increase in holiday sales from November through December. While this is lower than last year’s 5.4% growth, it aligns more closely with typical holiday spending patterns observed between 2010 and 2019 before the pandemic disrupted the numbers.

According to Adobe Analytics, online holiday sales in the U.S. are expected to rise by 4.8% from last year between November and the end of December. As of December 17th, sales were already up by 4.7%, according to Adobe.

The holiday retail landscape has been mixed, with challenges for retailers in the home goods and fashion sectors. Toy sellers have also faced difficulties in maintaining sales momentum. Hasbro recently announced significant job cuts, indicating the impact of changing consumer preferences.

Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, is collaborating with individual stores to offer discounts for a limited time to attract shoppers. So far, the megamall has seen a 10% increase in customer counts, and sales in some stores have surpassed last year’s figures.

Saturday is expected to be the second busiest shopping day of the holiday season after Black Friday, according to Sensormatic Solutions, which tracks store traffic. The top 10 busiest shopping days typically account for approximately 40% of all holiday retail traffic.

Tom McGee, CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers, noted, “We’re seeing more price-conscious consumers who are focused on finding the best deals and are willing to hold out for the lowest prices.”

Spencer Jordan, Senior Vice President of Leasing at Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio, reported higher customer counts compared to last year, although sales remained consistent. She expressed optimism that both sales and traffic would increase during the holiday season.

Salesforce expects a surge in shoppers using services that allow them to make online purchases and then pick up their items in-store as the online delivery window narrows. Such services accounted for 25% of online orders during the three weeks following Cyber Monday, and this proportion is expected to increase to one-third of online orders during the final week before Christmas.

Katie Ciullo, a resident of Westfield, New Jersey, represents one of the procrastinators of this holiday season. She had initially planned to shop at Kohl’s to buy gifts for the remaining people on her list. Despite usually starting her shopping in October, she faced challenges this year in finding the right gifts. So far, she has spent $700 and plans to spend an additional $300, setting tonight as her deadline. “I pushed it too far,” she admitted, “I can’t let it happen again.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Last-minute holiday sales

What are last-minute holiday sales?

Last-minute holiday sales are special promotions and discounts offered by retailers in the final days before Christmas. These sales aim to attract shoppers who may have been waiting for the best deals or couldn’t complete their holiday shopping earlier.

Why do retailers offer last-minute sales?

Retailers offer last-minute sales as an extension of their efforts to engage shoppers throughout the holiday season. These promotions help boost sales and clear inventory, ensuring that shoppers find attractive deals and items in the days leading up to Christmas.

How early do retailers start their holiday sales?

Retailers often begin their holiday sales strategies as early as October, with some placing items on clearance racks and shelves well before the holiday season begins to attract bargain hunters.

What challenges have retailers faced this holiday season?

Retailers have faced challenges related to consumer spending, rising credit card debt, and changing shopping behaviors. Some consumers have turned to “buy now, pay later” plans, which may lead to increased debt for shoppers in the long run.

How has the holiday retail landscape been in terms of sales?

While overall sales are expected to grow at a slower pace compared to the previous year, online holiday sales in the U.S. have seen steady growth. However, the retail landscape has been mixed, with challenges in sectors like home goods, fashion, and toys.

What is the significance of Saturday during the holiday season?

Saturday is expected to be the second busiest shopping day of the holiday season, following Black Friday. The top 10 busiest shopping days typically account for a significant portion of all holiday retail traffic.

How are shoppers adapting to the changing retail environment?

Shoppers are increasingly using services that allow them to make online purchases and then pick up their items in-store as the online delivery window narrows. This trend is expected to continue during the holiday season.

How are procrastinating shoppers approaching their holiday shopping?

Procrastinating shoppers, like Katie Ciullo, are rushing to complete their holiday shopping by taking advantage of last-minute sales and discounts, despite initial delays in their shopping plans.

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