The holiday spending frenzy is underway with mixed results. Black Friday is the traditional start of the shopping season and experts anticipated record sales. Instead, according to Business Insider, Black Friday store sales dropped 11%. Cyber Monday sales were up by 8%. Some of the decline in brick and mortar sales is the result of increased online buying. Despite vocal protests about making their workers come in on the holiday, mass-market retailers were jammed with customers; often getting into fist-fights over bargain priced electronics.
This is the second year in a row of strong surges in online holiday spending. IBM’s Black Friday Report showed Thanksgiving Day online sales rose 14.3% over last year while online activity rose 9.5% on Black Friday. People are shopping on smartphones but tablets outpaced them for actual sales.
The good news for retail jewellers is that the Thanksgiving weekend only affects the big mass-market merchants. Low prices on popular consumer goods are the prime motivators. For those of us in the luxury markets, our time is yet to come. Jewellery is an emotional purchase and not as price sensitive as mass-market categories. Retail jewellers should see strong sales later in the month. Some local jewellers I’ve talked to are reporting that shoppers are now replacing jewellery they sold to survive the recession.
There is a lot to learn by observing holiday spending patterns that is beneficial for independent retail jewellers throughout the year. The most obvious is the need for an online sales platform to compliment your brick and mortar store. More people want the convenience and privacy of ordering online. A basic web presence is no longer enough. Once you have the customer engaged and interested, you need to be able close the deal immediately with a “Buy it Now” button. I am a perfect example. I do not see myself going to any retail stores this season, I am only shopping online. I still try to shop with local businesses but they better be online or someone else gets my money.
If you are going to be online you need to be mobile ready. M-commerce is gaining steam and will soon overtake shopping on a full size computer or laptop. My aging eyes still prefer a large monitor screen but I’ve lately found myself checking for bargains on my phone. The next generation of jewellery shoppers will only find you on their phones. Be ready for them.
Black Friday used to be a one day event. This year the first signs of Black Friday started in October with “Pre-holiday Sales Events.” The official Black Friday actually opened on Thanksgiving Thursday, ran past Cyber-Monday, and still continues today. It may live on until after the first of the year. This gives you permission to think outside of the calendar. Why not plan your own holiday shopping weekend in July, saving your customers the hassle of December crowds? Or have a Black Friday in October to get an early start on custom and special orders?
The holiday season, like everything else in retail, is changing. It is longer, more intense, and running on automatic with point-n-click sales. Keep an eye on the big guys this year and follow their lead for next year.
Have a profitable season!