Retailers Need To Get A Head Start On Slower Holidays

Bad news for people irked by the holiday creep: A new ShopperTrak study suggests retailers start their holiday promotions early this year to get a head start on expected slow sales.

According to the Chicago-based analytics firm, general merchandise sales are expected to increase by 2.4 percent in November and December, compared with 3, 4 and 3.8 percent increases in the three previous years. That makes it the smallest increase since 2009.

"Although the economy continues to recover slowly, consumers remain cautious about spending and are not ready to splurge," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in a statement. "Even though online buying increases each year, brick-and-mortar sales remain retail's largest profit opportunity. Retailers who deliver a seamless experience both in-store and at every customer touchpoint have the chance to capitalize and grab their share of the wallet when shoppers visit the stores."

The firm expects the selling season to kick into high gear as early as November 1, due in large part to a shorter than usual shopping season. There will only be 25 days between Black Friday and Christmas this year, compared to 31 last year. In addition, Hanukkah starts 11 days earlier this year than last, meaning that the most wonderful time of the year might be thrust on shoppers earlier than they expect.

Many of those shoppers will be going online, though, in search of free shipping and good deals. If brick-and-mortar stores want to lure customers in the door, they'll need to make sure their discounts are big and in consumers' faces. Walmart (NYSE:WMT) already started slashing toy prices last week, and has said it is prepared to go even lower if necessary.

"Nobody can afford to procrastinate," Martin said. "Retailers must have their holiday marketing and operations ready to go when November begins, as consumers will be ready to take advantage of those deals."

For more:

- See this Fox Business story
- See this Drug Store News story

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