BY: David Moin with contributions from Allison Collins, Jean E. Palmieri, Sharon Edelson, Arthur Zaczkiewicz and Kali Hays
Holiday selling is proceeding according to script, with consumers shopping online and in stores Thursday through Saturday at levels that supported widespread forecasts for seasonal sales gains averaging in the 4 percent range.
For now at least, the industry mood remains upbeat and the economy strong, although there are concerns about the shorter calendar — six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than last year — and intensified promoting impacting fourth-quarter margins. Also, the robust growth in online sales continues to come at the expense of brick-and mortar retail businesses. . . .
. . . However, there are still 23 days left until Christmas and anything can happen, and over the weekend, some urgency crept in. Retailers and brands unleashed ads notifying consumers that time was running out on extended Black Friday deals, then shifted the narrative to promoting early Cyber Monday discounts. That happened just as a big storm pushed east, bringing snow, sleet, winds and rain to metro areas. Precipitation was notable in the Southwest with Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix recording their most Black Friday weekend rainfall in more than 20 years, according to Planalytics, a firm forecasting the weather and helping retailers to plan accordingly.
The weather did suppress some brick and-mortar traffic, though snowfall was heaviest in higher elevations and smaller markets throughout the Rockies and Plains. Out west, colder weather lifted demand for jackets, gloves, hats and hot drinks as well as need-based categories such as snow shovels, boots, and wiper blades, Planalytics said.
Though disrupting shopping as well as traveling, the timing of the storm was in one respect fortunate, hitting the Northeast on Sunday, which is when many consumers break from visiting malls to instead eat turkey leftovers, watch football and mine early Cyber Monday deals online.
Retail experts see possible fourth-quarter margin pressures based on the fewer shopping days and some intensified and prolonged Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions. Site-wide promotions offering 25 or 30 percent off entire assortments also seemed more apparent. . . .