The 2017 holiday shopping season appears to be a very good one for America’s retailers, many of whom have not had much reason in recent years to be merry. The successful end-of-the-year selling shows that traditional retailers are adapting to the shift to online buying.
The tax overhaul recently passed by Congress could signal more shifts in shopping as ordinary Americans figure out how the changes might affect them and their ability to spend. If they are in the brackets that might benefit from the tax re-do, they might spend more. Or they might put the “savings” into savings.
As the year wound down, it appeared that the 2017 holiday season would stack up very well against previous years. One factor is that unemployment is at a 17-year low, contributing to the highest level of consumer optimism in years. The current spending spree is the most intense since the recession that is now about 10 years in the past.
Consumers are not only spending more this year, but they are putting more of their money into electronics, clothing and toys to a greater extent, according to the National Retail Federation. The federation noted with elation that the week before Christmas, the most critical time for retailers, saw a lot of traffic in stores. Many retailers see 20 percent of their foot traffic during that week. The fact that there was a full weekend immediately before Christmas also boded well for the industry, as late shoppers continued to flood the stores in search of last-minute gifts and stocking stuffers.
Most online shoppers have completed their buying before the last week to allow time for deliveries. They then are more likely to show up in the stores, bypassing the convenience of online shopping for the assurance that their gifts will be on time. Even so, the numbers of shoppers buying online continues to grow. Now, the growth in online sales is about double that level at stores, according to First Data, a payment technology firm. Online giant Amazon accounts for a considerable amount of the growth. Amazon has expanded into new areas, putting more categories of retailers on alert. The firm reported that its Cyber Monday sales tallied the highest in its history. Estimates are that Amazon accounted for more than 60 percent of the total sales for that day.
Some families have begun exchanging “wish lists” before the holidays, consisting of many web links. The shopping then becomes easier and the satisfaction with gifts more consistent.
Stores are responding to the online onslaught by offering more weekend deals and upping their loyalty programs.