Once again, the bright spot during the holidays will be web and other direct-to-consumer sales, says Deloitte LLP.
The accounting and consulting firm forecasts that overall holiday sales will increase just 2% over last year, while non-store sales, about two-thirds of which occur online, will jump 15%. The rest are sales from catalogs and TV shopping shows.
“Online growth will continue to be strong—and we don’t see any abatement in its growth,” says Alison Paul, Deloitte’s retail practice head.
The reason non-store shopping continues to rise, she says, is its convenience. “Rather than endure the expense and time of getting in car and driving to the store, finding a parking spot and seeing if the item they are looking for is in stock, consumers can sit at their desk and make a purchase,” she says. “Consumers have realized that it’s easy to do.”
And since consumers are shopping online, as well as on their mobile phones, there’s a prime opportunity for retailers to build brand awareness, she says.
“We believe that the retailers that have integrated marketing messages where their apps, Facebook pages, web site and in-store presences share a common campaign or theme will be the big winners this holiday season,” she says.
This year she expects cross-channel shopping to grow as online activity increasingly influences in-store shopping behavior—particularly as consumers’ use of mobile phones to research and comparison shop continues to grow exponentially, from single digits in the winter to 29% in July.
“The uptake of mobile phones has been across the demographic spectrum,” she says. “That says to us that smartphones are the new PC and retailers need to do a lot more electronically to break through the clutter and deliver a message to a consumer.”
Deloitte says the 2% gain in overall retail purchases will push total holiday sales to $852 billion from November through January. Last year holiday sales rose 1%.