How the 2013 Holiday Season Will be Different than Last Year

With the 2013 holiday shopping season fast approaching, there’s no better time than now to take a look at what’s likely to be different this year than last.

With the economy doing slightly better, housing prices increasing, and online sales prepared to blow through the roof, the differences this year could be significant.

First, consider online sales, which analysts expect to see increase by 15% this holiday season as consumers spend over $80 billion on gifts, food, decorations and all of the familiar holiday trimmings.

From eMarketer to Deloitte, the projections are optimistic across the board.

But one of the reasons that online sales will climb so dramatically this year has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with timing. As it turns out, there are actually fewer shopping days this year than last. And that has many retailers worried.

In 2012, between “Black Friday” and Christmas, there were 31 shopping days and 5 full shopping weekends. This year, there are only 25 days and 4 full weekends, a huge difference when it comes to retail sales – online or offline. For consumers, the difference means less time, obviously, to run around finding gifts. This reality should drive more people to purchase gifts through their smartphone, tablet, or computer, saving time, energy, and money in the process.

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Another difference is something called the “omnichannel experience.” This is a relatively new concept in retail that sees brick-and-mortar stores streamlining their websites and mobile apps so that everything is working together to benefit not only the retailer but the consumer as well.

Using omnichannel, a retailer like Macy’s, for example, will seamlessly merge together their brick-and-mortar prices and promotions with those that are being offered through their desktop website, mobile site, and apps.

The fact that the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving occur so close together this year could also be a factor that shakes things up this holiday season. If retailers see that their sales are down as opposed to last year, you can bet that they’ll make a huge last-minute push with Hanukkah-themed offers in order to make up the difference.

Without any real historical data to go by, it’s unknown how the United States government shutdown will impact holiday shopping. But, in most experts’ opinions, the longer it’s in effect, the worse it will be for retailers.

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So even though the slow but steady improvement in the U.S. economy will more than likely put buyers in a better state of mind for shopping this year, it’s possible that the government shutdown could actually cancel out some of this renewed consumer confidence.

Fortunately, with the housing market recovering, people are beginning to spend more money on their homes again, which is a development that could positively influence retail sales over the next ten weeks.

Regardless of the myriad factors weighing both positively and negatively on today’s market, you can bet that there’s going to be an unprecedented degree of consumer interest in online and mobile sales this year. It’s the natural consequence of retailers striving to attract more customers through online and mobile promotions that, in many cases, are better than the deals they would have to fight long lines to find in stores.

Images courtesy o fDavid Castillo Dominici /

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