Retailers should get early start on holiday promotions this year, study finds

ShopperTrak says shorter Black Friday-Christmas window, earlier Hannukah could mean holiday promotions as early as Nov. 1

CHICAGO — Sales of general merchandise are expected to increase by 2.4% during the holiday season of November and December, but shoppers will visit fewer stores, according to a new forecast.

ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based analytics firm, said that retailers would have to work to earn their share of sales despite a predicted rise. The increase in sales forecasted for this year builds on the 3% increase seen in 2012 over 2011, according to the firm's research, while the 1.4% decrease in shopper traffic is down from last year, while last year's figures had increased by 2.5% over 2011. ShopperTrak measures retail store traffic in more than 60,000 locations around the world.

"Although the economy continues to recover slowly, consumers remain cautious about spending and are not ready to splurge," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said. "Even though online buying increases each year, brick-and-mortar sales remain retail's largest profit opportunity. Retailers who deliver a seamless experience both in-store and at every customer touchpoint have the chance to capitalize and grab their share of wallet when shoppers visit the stores."

Retailers must also contend with a shorter shopping season as there will be 25 days between Black Friday, on Nov. 29, and Christmas, compared with 31 days last year. Hanukkah will start 11 days earlier this year than last year, taking place the day before Thanksgiving. According to ShopperTrak, while an early Hanukkah will not affect overall retail sales, it will shift the time some retailers anticipate traffic increases, and the firm expects promotions to start as early as the day after Halloween.

"Nobody can afford to procrastinate," Martin said. "Retailers must have their holiday marketing and operations ready to go when November begins, as consumers will be ready to take advantage of those deals."

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