Retailers Expect Strong Holiday Spending

The holiday spending season is expected to be a lively one this year, and brick-and-stick stores remain a critical component to the shopping season.

ICSC, a retail real estate researcher, forecasts a 4.9% increase in holiday spending over last year, reaching an $832.3 billion total. The average adult is expected to spend $683 on holiday-related items.

Ninety percent of adults say they plan to shop in retail locations for gifts and related goods, according to ICSC, which surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers. Eighty-two percent expect to make an additional purchase in store while picking up their online purchase.

“Our annual Holiday Shopping Intentions Survey once again shows that consumers are not only optimistic about the upcoming holiday season, but also continue to favor physical stores when shopping for gifts,” says Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC. “Consumers expect convenience and experience when shopping, which means that those retailers with a good omnichannel strategy will likely see success this holiday season.”

Promotions are key to driving more in-store visits, the survey found. More than 60% of shoppers say that searching for deals is what drives them to take more trips to stores. The most popular purchases: gift cards (63%); apparel, footwear and accessories (55%); toys and games (48%); and food and alcohol (43%).

Eighty-seven percent of shoppers say they plan to research online before going into a physical store. Eighty-two percent of respondents say they’ll use their smartphone in store to compare prices, check inventory and access digital coupons.

‘Click-and-Collect’ Boosts Retailers

The assumed demise of bricks-and-mortar retail stores in the age of e-commerce doesn’t appear to be playing out the way the real estate industry thought it would. In fact, a melding of in-store and online services – even for some brands that started out as digital-only – seems to be a winning strategy aiding a retail resurgence, says Todd Caruso, a senior managing director at commercial real estate brokerage CBRE.

“We are really seeing an upstart renaissance” within the retail sector, adds Garrick Brown, vice president of retail research at Cushman & Wakefield. Still, plenty of challenges remain for retailers, including oversaturation of physical stores and not enough investment in online platforms or in-store shopping experiences, Brown says. “You can’t compete with the likes of Amazon when it comes to convenience. You have to give consumers a reason to come into your store.”

Some bricks-and-mortar operations are tapping into consumers’ desire for instant gratification by offering online shoppers a faster in-store pick-up option and online returns. Such a tactic appears to be boosting traffic at physical stores: More than 53% of Americans say they use “click-and-collect” options which enable the online purchase of a product and an in-person pick-up at the store, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Of consumers who use click-and-collect shopping options, 61% report using them at least once per month. Further, 67% say that when they go to a store to collect their online purchase, they end up buying additional items from the retailer.

“The use of click-and-collect demonstrates the ongoing convergence of physical and digital,” says ICSC President and CEO Tom McGree. “Consumers want options when making their purchases, and the retailers who are offering the most channels are seeing more purchases being made.”

That may help explain why foot traffic at physical stores is climbing. Nearly 80% of consumers report visiting physical stores as much or more than they did two years ago, according to ICSC, with entertainment and dining venues seeing the most traffic.