Thanks to early boosts from Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, the holiday season is poised to be a merrier one for retailers, as Americans are upping their online and in-store spending, according to news from The Wall Street Journal on Thursday (Dec. 14).
In fact, in-store, online and restaurant spend increased 0.8 percent in October, per reports from the Department of Commerce, beating economist estimates of 0.3 percent. Compared to November 2016 numbers, retail sales for November 2017 increased 5.8 percent.
Holiday season spending has been led by electronics and appliance store sales as well as eCommerce websites and platforms, an increase of 1 percent for the month when excluding the automotive sales category.
“We’ve had strong reports so far from various retailers that it has been a good and healthy start to the holiday buying season,” said Jack Kleinhenz, Ph.D., chief economist at the National Retail Federation (NRF). “[It is] perhaps the best start in the past few years. We heard early-on consumers were out there before Thanksgiving.”
Consumer spending in the U.S. is a key economic driver, has outpaced inflation and wage growth and has seen low unemployment at 4.1 percent. With plenty of sales at some of the largest retailers in America, and eCommerce growing by the minute, the NRF is predicting this holiday season will be the strongest since 2014.
Some of the growth can be attributed to new offerings from well-known retailers — including a more robust selection on their websites and revamped shipping and package pick-up options — released just in time for the holiday season.
Retailers are setting earlier deadlines this year to prevent any shipping problems, CNBC reported, and some companies are trying to look more customer-friendly by pushing a later cutoff. In answer to many retailers selecting Dec. 19 as a shipping deadline for guaranteed online holiday purchase deliveries this year, Amazon has launched a holiday delivery promise of its own: “fast, free shipping from Amazon to your door — through December 24.”
Similarly, to meet customer needs during the biggest shopping season of the year, Walmart customers will be able to shop a longer list of items labeled with “Free Pickup Today” on the company’s website. Those items can then be retrieved at nearby brick-and-mortar locations. If orders are placed online before 4:00 P.M. on Dec. 23, they can be retrieved in-store until 6:00 P.M. local time on Christmas Eve. Ninety percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a brick-and-mortar Walmart location, and the company has more than tripled the amount of merchandise on its website, listing more than 70 million items for sale.
Amazon has launched a similar service at Whole Foods Market locations across the country, with Whole Foods and Amazon Bookstores open on Christmas Eve.