NEW YORK (AP) – With two weeks until the official start of the holiday shopping season, the nation's retailers are gearing up for what will be another brutally competitive shopping season.
The good news? Many CEOs say that the US consumer is financially healthy, given the economy is still strong and unemployment is close to 50 years low. But keeping up with customer behavior has been challenging for retailers, whether it's the annual shift to shopping online or the recent desire to rent or buy used clothing and other items. Retailers are also facing increasing pressure from online leader Amazon, which has lifted efforts for faster shipping.
Here are some key trends and milestones to see:
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The National Retail Federation, the country's largest retail group, predicts that holiday sales will rise between 3.8% and 4.2%, although the ongoing US-China trade war creates some uncertainty about prices and supplies. Sales growth at the top of this range will double the disappointing 2.1% growth seen in November and December 2018, which fell well below the Group's forecast of 4.3% and 4.8%. Last year's holiday sales were hurt by turmoil over President Donald Trump's trade policy on China and a delay in data collection by almost a month, which NRF said made the data a little less reliable. The group expects online sales and other non-stores, which are included in the total, to increase between 11% and 14% for the holiday 2019 period. The NRF forecast, which considers economic indicators such as consumer credit, disposable personal income and monthly retail sales, excludes sales from cars, gas and restaurants. Other groups are more optimistic: Deloitte expects retail sales to grow 4.5% to 5%, and AlixPartners forecasts 4.4% to 5.3% growth.
WHAT MAKES THIS DIFFERENT SEASON DIFFERENT?
First, this holiday season is the shortest since 2013 and six days shorter than the 2018 season because Thanksgiving falls on November 28. Dealers say such a compressed season will put more pressure on them to make every day count. Walmart and others are trying to get into the minds of shoppers before, with previous deals and advertising. This season is also different because several retailers such as Walmart and Amazon offer next day delivery, increasing the pressure for them to satisfy buyers with no hassle. Amazon has said that more than 10 million items now qualify for next-day delivery for its Prime members, who pay $ 119 a year.
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KEY MILESTONES FOR DATA
Analysts will sift through key data throughout the season. The first major milestone comes after the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, as NRF releases the results of its survey that provides insight into customers' intentions about the first major weekend of the holiday season. The weekend, which includes Cyber Monday, is not necessarily a good predictor of how the entire season will go, but it does reveal some trends.
MasterCard SpendingPulse, which tracks all types of payment including cash and check, provides historical vacation sales insights and trends during key periods including just after Thanksgiving weekend and after Christmas. Adobe Analytics offers online sales updates including Cyber Monday – December 2 this year – and it usually makes an outline of the mid-January holiday season. The shipping company FedEx may comment on the holiday when it releases income for the second quarter December 17.
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It will not be known how, overall, the holidays went to November and December until the government releases the retail sales figures in December in mid-January. NRF extrapolates this data and comes out with the two-month holiday sales results. In the meantime, retailers will release fourth-quarter accounting results in February – which will add more color to the holiday season, including how much discounts affected profits.
WINNERS AND LOSSERS
On the way to the official start of the holiday, big discounts like Target and Walmart and others who have consistently won buyers with their low prices and accelerated shipping should be among the clear winners. Discount discounts like T.J. Maxx, who has done well by offering customers a treasure hunt experience, should also do well. Meanwhile, there is a mixed bag regarding department stores. Macy's explores its interactive experience called Story in 36 stores, while Kohl's offers a range of exclusive partnerships such as the Elizabeth and James brand founded by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
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But JC Penney & # 39; s is expected to struggle as it has not yet figured out a reinvention strategy that is reviving sales . And investors will see Sears, which continues to close stores. Many mall-based clothing chains like Gap are also expected to continue to flounder since they have had difficulty separating from their rivals.
Given this climate, brands like Banana Republic and Urban Outfitters are launching rental subscription services for the first time. Meanwhile, Macy's and J.C. Penney's teamed up with the online resale site ThredUP to carve out dedicated areas in select stores to sell used clothing. Investors will look at how these initiatives are going.