The stockings have disappeared from the mantles. The tinsel and lights are stowed in the attic. The gifts are all unwrapped, and the fruitcake has all been eaten. Now that the 2012 holiday season has ended, the retail industry is evaluating the sales figures and looking forward to what 2013 might bring.
Total sales for the 2012 holiday season generated mixed results. Online spending increased 14 percent from 2011 for a total of $42.3 billion spent in November and December. While this is a tremendous growth rate, it actually falls 2 percent or one billion dollars below expectations. Customers surveyed reported that they spent more in stores, online, and at restaurants this season than they have in four years, but industry estimates are coming in much lower than expected.
Brick-and-mortar retail stores have suffered the most with 3.4 percent lower sales and 16 percent fewer shopping visits than last year. Online and in-person retailers witnessed similar spending patterns as the days and weeks of the season progressed. Early November saw strong sales both online and in stores, perhaps led by aggressive price incentives by top retailers, leaving industry analysts optimistic about the season ahead. Thanksgiving Day alone saw a 32 percent increase in online sales, which signaled a significant shift in consumer shopping habits from previous years. Black Friday saw increased foot traffic in stores, but a slight decrease in sales totals. When the entire weekend after Thanksgiving was reviewed, sales were up 2.7 percent. After this somewhat encouraging news, sales softened for the first few weeks of December. Many attribute the effects of Hurricane Sandy and constant media coverage of the looming fiscal cliff for lowering consumer appetites during this time.
The final week before Christmas, retail activity picked up again. The “Free Shipping Day” on Dec. 17 saw a 76 percent increase in online sales with many websites offering free shipping with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve. Best Buy had its busiest, in-store day on Sat., Dec. 22 while Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, and Macy’s experienced their busiest days on Sun., Dec. 23. Target is apparently the favorite of procrastinators on Christmas Eve, which marked the single busiest day in Target stores.
Overall, online shopping emerged as the big winner this holiday season over brick-and-mortar retailers. However, a recent study shows that there was no increase in customer satisfaction by consumers who purchased items online. The websites that are working so hard to gain customers are not doing a good enough job at making them happy, which could present challenges to repeat sales in the future.
At NBRI, we recommend using a customer satisfaction survey to evaluate what your customers think and make sure they are satisfied with both the experience and your customer service. After you revise your customer service plan based on the results of the initial survey, re-survey periodically to gauge the success of your improvement initiatives. Contact us today to get started!