The holiday season is
PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Retail Federation are two prolific researchers when it comes to the retail sector, with their annual forecasts influencing the actions of many merchants. Despite both organizations being held in high regard by the retail industry, it seems their latest forecasts for the upcoming holiday season are a bit mixed - one projects record-level increases in expenditures, while the other has predicted a more "survivalist" approach to shopping.
As Internet Retailer reported, the NRF believes that total retail spending will jump 4.1 percent during the 2014 holiday season
. That would make 2014 the first year since 2011 that has seen a year-over-year growth of greater than 4 percent, with November and December sales topping $616.9 billion if that forecast comes to fruition.
"November and December look very, very good right now. If our estimates are correct it will be the best [season] going back a decade," added Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the NRF, according to Internet Retailer.
At the same time, the PwC report was much more conservative, characterizing the 2014 holiday season as one of cautious spending. The researcher actually predicted a 6.9 percent drop in average household spending on gifts as customers switch to a more "survivalist" mindset. Survivalists are people who will spend an average of $377 on gifts, with the number of people representing this category increasing year-over-year in 2014. Conversely, selectionists - people with big wallets and expected budgets of $978 - will decline this year, which will result in the decline in holiday spending, according to PwC.
Regardless of budget, more people shop online
As Internet Retailer noted, regardless of which forecast is accurate, both noted one thing in common: More people will be doing their holiday shopping online this year.
Both reports suggested online shopping activity was likely to increase this year, illustrating the importance of an easy-to-use, robust online store. People with limited budgets are shopping online because digital destinations are often the best places to get the lowest prices. There are also more options online, so cost-conscious customers are more likely to find a store with an ongoing promotion that will help them save even more money.
Of course, people with thin wallets are not the only ones heading to online stores. The NRF projected Web sales will climb between 8 and 11 percent this holiday season to $105 billion. For many people, shopping online is simply the most convenient option - they can make holiday purchases during their lunch breaks at work, from the comfort of their own home and anywhere else. Considering how busy many people are during the holidays, whether they are planning parties, preparing for guests or making travel arrangements to go home or elsewhere, they can always squeeze in a quick shopping session at an online store.
Embracing convenience this holiday season
Regardless of which forecast is right, the NRF or the PwC one, the key takeaway here is that online shopping will play a pivotal role in holiday retailing efforts this year.
Merchants need to do what they can to really accentuate their online stores with pertinent, flexible service offerings. Options such as buy online, pick-up in-store (or going one step further, perhaps even curbside pickup, which many merchants have begun rolling out) could be a significant boon for omnichannel retailing
People use a variety of different channels to shop, and at the end of the day, it is pivotal that retailers are able to offer them a satisfactory shopping regardless of where customers opt to make purchases.