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On the radar: Holiday shopping period a short 27 days in 2019, but consumers may be in the mood to spend

The holiday shopping season isn’t far off and retailers are already starting to gear up. Many stores already have displays of home decorations. Gift suggestion flyers won’t be far behind — if they haven’t started to arrive already.

The traditional holiday shopping period is Thanksgiving to Christmas. In 2019 that spans 27 days, the shortest period since 26 days in 2013 and 27 days in 2014. Given that relatively brief timeframe, it would be no surprise if retailers made an extra effort to get early bird shoppers out around the Veteran’s Day holiday. In 2019, that conveniently falls on a Monday, creating the sort of three-day weekend with which retailers maximize promotional efforts. It also means that the push back on opening stores on Thanksgiving Day may be more limited this year since there will be less time to make up any difference.

There is often a pause in retail spending after the first wave in the weekend after Thanksgiving. Sometimes the timing of Hanukkah observances takes up the slack, but this year it falls in the same week as the Christmas, so there may be less impetus for some gift shopping early in December. Christmas falls on a Wednesday in 2019. It is likely many consumers will take time off for the two days before, which will give retailers another chance to lure shoppers into stores with an extended weekend. Alternatively, some consumers will take the two days following and be out at stores to exchange gifts and find bargains in seasonal clearance. Those who maximize their time off will have a full week to get out to stores.

The retail sector is feeling cautiously optimistic about this year’s sales. The National Retail Federation forecast holiday sales to rise by 3.8%-4.2% but included a number of caveats to its relatively upbeat outlook. The data indicates consumers have been in the mood to spend in recent months in spite of rising concerns about an economic downturn. Retailers are hoping for its continuance into November and December.

Challenger numbers for hiring intentions for seasonal workers reflect that brick-and-mortar stores aren’t going to be adding to payrolls as much as last year, but hiring plans in warehousing and transportation suggest on-line retailers are anticipating an increase. There’s no reason to expect that consumers aren’t going to continue to embrace the trend to on-line shopping, so some retailers will be expanding hybrid services where the consumer shops on-line and picks up at a physical store. (See our Footnote on holiday retail hiring from October 3)


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