Holiday retail success could get tricky

As if small businesses have not had enough thrown at them in the last twenty months or so, here comes the holiday shopping season. While the holiday season has always been a critical time for retailers, this season seems like it could be a make or break situation for many. As always, entrepreneurs and small business owners are looking for any edge they can get. In their recently released annual holiday retail report, Square has taken the pulse of retailers and the consumers to come up with a report that may just be what retailers need to get that edge. The following is taken directly from that published report:

  • Even though retailers are urging consumers to start shopping early, there is no considerable spike in consumer purchasing so far, indicating that holiday shopping has not started earlier.
  • The average number of sales and promotions applied at a retailer this year has closely followed 2019 and 2020 trends, with no indication that merchants are offering fewer sales in relation to supply chain issues. The value of offered sales has also remained steady, with a median promotion of $10 off and median percentage of 20% off.
  • Consumers are excited to return to physical stores, with the vast majority of card transactions taking place in-person, even exceeding last year’s rates of in-person. Both physical and e-gift card purchases have increased as consumers look for a seamless and convenient way to purchase gifts.
  • Consumers have always loved gift cards, but this holiday season is shaping up to be the biggest year for them yet. With inventory tied up, consumers are more likely to turn to gift cards to secure presents under the tree. Gift card purchases are up 43%, with physical gift cards seeing a 46% increase and e-gift cards seeing a 29% increase in purchases.

  • With this trend, retailers are preparing for increased gift card popularity, as 32% more businesses have already sold gift cards this year than in 2020. While physical gift cards have been more popular, e-gift cards continue to be an attractive option because of the convenience they offer consumers. This year 20% more businesses are selling e-gift cards to appeal to customers.
  • To avoid shipping delays and to get shoppers their products in a timely manner, retailers are using a variety
    of fulfillment methods to meet customer demand. For retailers who started using an online store during
    September and October, 90% are offering shipping and 16% are offering local delivery and curbside
    pickup in addition to shipping. While shoppers expect businesses to offer shipping, delivery and pickup options offer a great way to give customers the options they want and need, making retailers more competitive this holiday season.
  • Social commerce continues to be a popular method of shopping, with Facebook and Instagram consistently being top platforms of choice. Instagram minisites, on which merchants turn Instagram feeds into shopping sites, have seen an increase in weekly active businesses, as sellers explore social selling in order to meet consumers where they are.

-Written by Kevin Sawyer