The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) last week forecast that holiday shopping will rise 4.5% to $807 billion, with $685 billion spent on gifts and other holiday items and $122 billion on food and beverage.
But, while high levels of consumer confidence are propelling the increase, holiday shoppers will remain keen on discounts, ICSC also found: 74% say that promotions play a role in their holiday shopping, 63% plan around promotional events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Super Saturday and other big sales, and 47% say that in-store promotions influence their holiday purchases.
Global consulting firm AlixPartners, meanwhile, sees the retail sales boom of earlier months — pegged at 4.9% year-over-year through August — easing somewhat, predicting a November-through-January sales increase of 3.1% to 4.1% over last year.
Retailers that can accommodate shoppers with online sales and delivery options in addition to stores are poised to do best this season, according to ICSC.
By far the most holiday shoppers (84%) will head to a mall or shopping center, ICSC found. Of the 40% who will take advantage of click-and-collect services, 82% say they'll probably spend additional money when they do, the organization also found.
November elections, higher costs from wages, tariffs, materials and freight increases and pressure from high sales rates in the third quarter are all looming over the fourth, according to AlixPartners and Wells Fargo researchers.
"Retailers will have to do all they can to take advantage of this holiday season, as there won't be any letting up from the competition, plus with the November elections coming up there's no telling whether we might see some hiccups in the economy," AlixPartners Managing Director David Bassuk said in a statement. "But those retailers who take a holistic approach to their operations and their promotions could reap big rewards."
There was already some slowdown showing up last month, mostly because of warm weather, making seasonably colder temperatures especially key for many retailers over the holidays, according to a Wells Fargo note emailed to Retail Dive. For global retailers, weakness in Europe is also a problem, according to Wells Fargo researcher Ike Boruchow.
"Lastly, at a high-level (but extremely relevant nonetheless), the space has shown meaningful improvement in 2018 relative to years past, but the one key area where we have not seen a reversal is in channel mix trends (e-commerce vs. stores)," Boruchow wrote. "To that point, e-commerce penetration rates have accelerated in four straight years, and in 2018 YTD they are accelerating once again."
That hurt retailers during the holiday quarters from 2015 to 2017, "and it isn't going away," he also said.
The "most loved" retailer in Wells Fargo's stable remains TJX companies, which include Marshalls, TJ Maxx and other off-price banners, followed by Lululemon, Canada Goose and brands from VF Corp. Gap Inc. is among those faltering, according to Boruchow.