Registers will be ringing: Retailers group predicts holiday sales to rise up to 4 percent. Is the Crossroads area ready?

Retailers group predicts holiday sales to rise up to 4 percent. Is the Crossroads area ready?

Holiday shoppers say they’ll spend an average of $967.13 this year and, for the first time, most chose online as their top shopping spot.

But many also said they will still hit department stores, discount stores and other brick-and-mortar outlets.

Those results come from reports by Ana Serafin Smith on the National Retail Federation website. And they have been anticipated by some retailers doing business in the Crossroads area.

Take, for example, the newly remodeled Walmart store on Hagerstown’s Garland Groh Boulevard. The changes unveiled in June went beyond store design and product updates.

“One of the most exciting things is probably the customer service we offer here at the front of the store,” store Manager Joey Griffin said at the time in an interview with Herald-Mail Media.

That area of the store was redone to better accommodate online ordering. People can order items from the store or from walmart.com, and their purchases will be waiting for them up front, he said.

“It’s a brand-new location. … It’s a lot easier for a customer to grab their products and go on their way,” Griffin said.

In the stores

Retailers, however, still emphasize face-to-face service.

Like other stores, the J.C. Penney store in Valley Mall is gearing up for a holiday rush.

“During the year we employ an average of 115 associates. For the holiday season, we hope to grow that number by at least 45 percent,” said Lora Tolley, store general manager.

The store will be hiring up to mid-December, she said.

The in-store experience remains central for smaller retailers, too.

“We’re very traditional in what we do. That’s the core of our business,” said Jan Martin, who co-owns E.L.M. Department

Store in downtown Greencastle, Pa., with his parents, Harold and Charlotte Martin.

“For us, actually, a lot of our customers would be set against that online experience,” he said.

Through seven decades of doing business on the square, E.L.M. has sold “everything from clothing and shoes to groceries and hardware, books and records to dry goods, sewing machines and paints to a full-service tailor shop,” its website states.

In recent years it has specialized as a full-service family clothing store specializing in big and tall men’s sizes, ladies’ casual and dress wear and accessories, and children’s clothing and gift items.

Martin said customers come for the “full-service” experience to find the right clothes with the right fit and the right price. That saves people time, he said, because they know precisely what they’re purchasing. That’s particularly important with clothing, because sizes don’t measure the same from brand to brand, or sometimes from lot to lot.

“The variances in fit just seem to happen more often than they used to,” he said.

Survey says …

For the first time in the NRF survey’s history, online ranked as the most popular shopping destination, cited by 59 percent of consumers.

Most will take advantage of free shipping (94 percent) and conveniences such as buying online and picking up the items in the store (49 percent). In addition, 19 percent will use expedited shipping and 12 percent will pick same-day delivery.
Brick-and-mortar outlets still make strong showings. According to the survey, 57 percent plan to shop at department stores. After that came discount stores at 54 percent, grocery stores/supermarkets at 46 percent, and clothing/accessories stores at 35 percent.

Other shopping destinations include electronics (27 percent), small or local businesses (25 percent) and crafts/hobby stores (18 percent).

Spending up

In the survey, consumers reported they would spend an average $967.13 this year. That’s up 3.4 percent from the $935.58 consumers said they would spend when surveyed at the same time last year, Smith reported.

In the spending forecast, NRF projects that retail sales in November and December this year will be up between 3.6 percent and 4 percent for a total between $678.8 billion and $682 billion.

“With employment and incomes increasing, consumers are more confident this year and that is reflected in their buying plans for the holidays,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in the report. “Retailers have been stocking up in expectation of this, and all signs are that this will be a busy holiday season. Retailers are preparing for a rush of consumers leading into Thanksgiving and all through December, and are offering a wide array of merchandise and promotions so shoppers can find great gifts and great deals at the same time.”

Diving into the numbers

In the survey, holiday spending is divided into three categories: gifts, at $608.06; items such as food, decorations, flowers and greeting cards, at $218.08; and other non-gift items consumers buy for themselves and their families, at $140.99.

For the 11th year in a row, gift cards are the most popular items on wish lists, requested by 61 percent of those surveyed, followed by clothing and accessories at 55 percent, the highest level the category has seen in 12 years. Two in five (39 percent) would like books, music or movies, the lowest in survey history; others asked for consumer electronics (33 percent), home décor (24 percent), jewelry (23 percent), personal care or beauty items (21 percent), sporting goods (20 percent), and home improvement items (18 percent).

The survey of 7,349 consumers was conducted Oct. 3-10 by Prosper Insights & Analytics. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

‘The confidence to spend’

The spending forecast takes in a number of factors, including changes in the economy and the calendar.

The NRF expects holiday retail sales in November and December — excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants — to increase between 3.6 and 4 percent for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion, up from $655.8 billion last year.

“Consumers continue to do the heavy lifting in supporting our economy, and all the fundamentals are aligned for them to continue doing so during the holidays,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in the report. “The combination of job creation, improved wages, tame inflation and an increase in net worth all provide the capacity and the confidence to spend.”

Christmas falls 32 days after Thanksgiving this year, giving shoppers one day more than in 2016. Also, Christmas falls on a Monday instead of Sunday, giving consumers an extra weekend day to fill out their lists.

This year’s forecast would meet or exceed last year’s growth of 3.6 percent and the five-year average of 3.5 percent.

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries.

Spending in 2017

(In billions)

Winter holidays: $678.8

Back to school/college: $83.6

Mother’s Day: $23.6

Easter: $18.4

Valentine’s Day: $18.2

Father’s Day: $15.5

Super Bowl: $14.1

Halloween: $9.1

Source: National Retail Federation

Holiday sales

(In billions)

2002: $416,416

2003: $437,613

2004: $467,195

2005: $496,040

2006: $512,105

2007: $525,993

2008: $501,536

2009: $502,679

2010: $528,783

2011: $553,307

2012: $567,665

2013: $584,221

2014: $613,343

2015: $633,067

2016: $655,818

2017: $678,750 to $682,000

Source: National Retail Federation