AlixPartners’ forecast for this newly defined October-through-December holiday season is an increase in sales of 1.0 to 2.6% over the same three-month period last year, when sales totaled $1.132 trillion. Meanwhile, the firm’s survey, an annual poll of more than 1,000 consumers, showed that 49% of consumers plan to start holiday shopping by Halloween or earlier, an increase of 7 percentage points from last year’s AlixPartners survey.
Changes in Consumer Behavior
Joel Bines, global co-leader of the retail practice at AlixPartners and a managing director at the firm, said, “For years now, holiday sales have been pulled forward earlier and earlier, thanks mostly to the explosion in online shopping. This, in turn, has led to such things as the diminishment of Black Friday, of door-buster sales and of many other traditions. The pandemic has accelerated what was well on its way to happening anyway; the question now for retailers is whether and how fast they can adapt to this new world. Our recommendation is to move practical digital transformation coupled with rigorous cost control to the very top of the agenda, because ‘the future,’ ready or not, is right now.”
The AlixPartners consumer survey also found that 45% of Americans plan on doing the majority of their holiday shopping online, an amount up 15 percentage points from last year’s survey. Additionally, it found that 23% expect to spend less on holiday shopping this year than last year, which is a deterioration of 7 points from last year’s survey, while the percentage of those planning to spend the same or more dropped to 76%, from 85%. Notably, of those earning more than $100,000 annually 84% said they expect to spend the same or more.
“In addition to online sales likely breaking records this holiday season, so too will curbside and in-store pickups. This means that agility will be essential for retailers across their entire ecosystem,” said Sonia Lapinsky, a managing director in the retail practice at AlixPartners. “As consumers are shopping in new ways more than ever, retailers need to break down silos across their organizations and create a seamless experience across all shopping channels. Plus, such things as the announced move of Amazon Prime Day this year from July to this fall, and the advent of promotions such as the 10.10 shopping event, means that retailers need to be readier than ever to make quick, real-time adjustments.”
Alexa Driansky, a senior vice president in the retail practice at AlixPartners and one of the contributors to this year’s forecast and survey, added, “As our forecast implies, this holiday season could be a tough one for retailers overall. However, as our survey suggests, there may be upside potential for those able to cater to higher-income consumers, and for those playing in certain sectors. Overall, the amount of uncertainty out there is unprecedented. The winners in this environment will be those who can quickly adapt to the dramatic channel-shift playing out right now and leverage the resulting increased data to drive decisions that create a seamless and safe customer experience.”
The 2020 AlixPartners US Retail Holiday-Outlook Survey polled 1,005 U.S. consumers ages 18 and above September 3-5, 2020.