It's the season of giving, which also means the season of shopping -- but only on certain dates in the season, it turns out. It also turns out that when people only shop during certain pockets of the holiday season and not others, it's bad for retailers -- at least those of the brick-and-mortar variety.
As is typical of the holiday season, the biggest shopping days so far were around Thanksgiving weekend, i.e. Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Shopping is expected to pick up again on the 17th, when people are like, "Shit! It's almost Christmas! I need to buy presents!"
Which means that right now, people aren't shopping as much. And while this early-December lull is normal, WWD found that it's particularly bad this year, due to a couple of factors. One is bad weather, which is basically happening everywhere right now. Snow storms in Dallas almost forced Chanel to cancel a runway show (the horror!), so you can imagine holiday shopping is probably not everyone's first priority. The other is the fact that, as we reported earlier this month, markdowns began several days before and were extend beyond the promo-filled Thanksgiving Weekend. “None of this hyper-promoting comes without the consequences of lower margins,” Mark Cohen, Columbia Business School professor, told the trade.
Bill Taubman, chief operating officer of Taubman Centers Inc, which operates malls, confirmed -- sort of -- that the lull has been bad: “Margins are a little worse than planned, not dramatically worse. That’s my gut feeling.” Other retail experts said it would be difficult to determine the severity of the lull: A rep for the National Retail Federation told us that wasn't something retailers would measure. Due to the shorter amount of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, retailers have been anticipating lower margins.
Things are looking much rosier for online retailers, though, as they have been all season -- online shoppers spent $1.06 billion on Thanksgiving Day, up 39 percent year-over-year, and another $1.93 billion on Black Friday, up 18 percent year-over-year. And obviously, weather isn't going to impede a little online shopping -- if anything, it will help. So, it's not entirely surprising that, according to Forrester Research, the Monday after Cyber Monday was this year's third-biggest day for online shopping after Cyber Monday and Black Friday. Sales were up 29 percentcompared with the Monday after Cyber Monday last year.
Tuesday, Dec. 17 is expected to be a big day for online shopping as well because it's typically the last day to get your order in time for Christmas without paying extra for shipping. However, eBay is expecting its biggest day to be this coming Sunday, Dec. 15. And it's going the extra mile to accommodate those last-minute online shoppers by extending its eBay Now same-day delivery service to midnight every night from Dec. 16 through 6 p.m. Christmas Eve.
Chances are eBay won't be the only retailer catering to last-minute shoppers. Expect even more deals and discounts as Christmas draws nearer.