The holidays may be a time for comfort and joy, but to many that means warm stores and deep discounts. Eighteen percent of consumers said they would shop on Christmas Day if given the chance, and they also would expect a good experience. As more sales are shifting online, retailers should take note.
Perhaps it has something to do with the 15th consecutive airing of “A Christmas Story,” or that shiny smartphone just released from its package, but roughly one-fifth of your holiday guests are going to wish they were somewhere else on Christmas Day.
And that somewhere else includes cash registers, carts and lots of “40% Off!” signs.
Set aside that pudding and unplug the tree. This year, almost one in five consumers – 18 percent – said they would go shopping on Christmas Day.
The finding could hint at a change in our collective Christmas future. Two years after retailers first opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day, it is only a matter of time before merchants set their crosshairs on the Big Holiday. However, they should do so with caution. The Christmas Day research,conducted in November by LoyaltyOne, indicates those merchants that would open can expect a warm reception by some, but a rather damaging one by others.
At a time when record levels of holiday sales are shifting from the store to online, retailers should take note.
“The holiday gift-buying season is, itself, a high-risk touchpoint,” said Dennis Armbruster, consulting managing partner of LoyaltyOne. “Shoppers are demanding retailers maintain service levels, they’re making it clear to retailers they’re not prepared to cut them any slack when it comes to their expectations.”
Armbruster, who said retailers are discussing the idea of opening on Christmas, projects they will start doing so within three years.
Give, Not Forgive
The LoyaltyOne report, which surveyed 1,267 American consumers, also probed overall retail expectations of the season, including consumer feelings regarding return policies. Turns out that even in this season of giving, consumers are not necessarily forgiving.
While almost 20 percent of those surveyed said they would hit the stores on Christmas Day (if stores opened at 6 p.m.), almost 60 percent said they would never shop on Christmas. Twenty-four percent further said they would not only boycott a store that opened on Christmas Day, but would also cross it off the list of retailers they recommend to friends and family.
It might be worth noting that younger consumers (18- to 24-year-olds) are more likely to shop on Christmas Day – 30 percent gave it a nod.
Shoppers may not see eye-to-eye on Christmas Day shopping, but they do agree on the level of service and experience they deserve, crowded aisles or not. Specifically:
- Almost 95 percent of shoppers expect retailers to take the necessary extra steps to keep checkout lines moving during the holiday rush. Almost 90 percent think store employees should maintain their departments and keep them looking orderly.
- Eight in 10 shoppers would blame the retailer if they had to wait for checkout because of another customer’s coupons, returns or service problems. Among those ages 18 to 34, 40 percent said they would resent the customer for making them wait.
- Roughly six in 10 said a retailer’s holiday gift return policy alone can completely diminish their opinions of the brand.
Thanksgiving A Turkey
What surprises me about these findings is that a desire exists to shop on Christmas Day at all when Thanksgiving Day sales were so disappointing. Consumers spent roughly $1.76 billion in brick-and-mortar stores on Thanksgiving Day, according to ShopperTrak. That is down 12.5 percent from 2014. Over the entire Thanksgiving weekend, physical stores’ sales dropped by roughly 10.4 percent.
The decline can be attributed in part to retailers prolonging the holiday shopping season – Black Friday ads began to surface before Halloween. But more so, I think it is the result of a systemic shift in shopping behavior.
Armed with portable digital devices, consumers are able to research product ideas well ahead of time, the moment the inspiration hits them, so that they can target the specific stores they need to visit. This mission-driven approach to shopping diminishes the likelihood of browsing.
It also reduces the chances of purchasing in person. This year, consumers generated a record $7.2 billion in online sales between Thanksgiving and Black Friday, according to the Adobe Digital Index. That represents a 14 percent increase over the same period in 2014.
Forget about cluttered aisles, next year we will be grousing about sluggish browsers.
There is one other piece of data from the research that surprises me. Could it mean something that slightly more men (18.1 percent) than women (17.2 percent) said they would go shopping on Christmas Day?
Perhaps it has something to do with the in-laws. Or maybe the men surveyed simply anticipate having to return those extra-large sweaters snuggled in the tissue paper. Hopefully, the lines at the return desks are short.