Despite Inflation, Holiday Season is Off to a Good Start

Last year’s anticipated supply-chain disruptions drove an extended holiday shopping season, and recent data from Leap and Placer.ai reveals that trend is continuing this year.  We dove into the numbers to find out which store and product categories are attracting the most early shoppers and what this initial data may indicate about the rest of the season. 

Holiday Shopping Picked Up Steam in October

Placer.ai – which provides anonymized foot traffic insights across the US – observed that many retailers experienced a challenging September as inflation curbed foot traffic growth. But, foot traffic trends from the past several weeks indicate the tides may be turning. Between September 19th and October 16th, retail foot traffic increased week-over-week, indicating that the holiday shopping season may be picking up steam. 

2022’s Holiday Season is Already Underway 

Leap – the retail platform for modern brands – sees point-of-sale trends that support an early holiday shopping pattern. Weekend sales in mid-October last year went up nearly a third, over the first weekend of the month.  This year, the comparable period saw an even steeper increase.

This jump indicates consumers began their holiday shopping in early October last year, to compensate for long shipping times. This year, they appear to have held off until later in the month to start this year’s gift buying, possibly hoping to balance early discounts with the potential for inflation-driven price hikes.

Which Store Categories Attract Early Shoppers? 

Placer.ai weekend visit trends show three categories of retailers benefiting most from early shoppers: department stores, shopping centers, and specialty clothing. Their 2022 Yo3Y visit gaps narrowed by 6.8, 7, and 9.9 percentage points, respectively, between the second weekend in September and the second to last weekend in October. 

In electronics stores, the Yo3Y visit gap narrowed by only 2.8 percentage points, as many consumers appear willing to wait for Black Friday to get the best deals on higher ticket items like TVs, games, and appliances. And superstores appear relatively unaffected by the extended season, as consumers may feel more confident that Target, Costco, and others will continue stocking their favorite gifts at favorable price points going in November and December.

Sales Growth Across Retail Categories

Leap data also suggests earlier holiday shopping may be leading to sensible add-ons. Womenswear, swimwear, general apparel, intimates, and menswear sales led with increases of 94.6%, 91.5%, 63.5%, 19.0%, and 6.3%, respectively (again comparing mid-October weekends vs. the first weekend). Growth in these categories shows consumers who can purchase beyond gifts are still refreshing their wardrobes and willing to invest in trips they’ve been eagerly anticipating.

In the classic gift category of jewelry, sales grew by 19.4% over the same period– indicating that at least some shoppers have indeed already started buying gifts. 

Another Unique Holiday Season

Combined, Placer.ai and Leap data show that this year’s holiday shopping is starting earlier than usual – although the impact of the extended season is not as significant as in 2021, as consumers are likely more worried about inflation than about any potential product shortages. So while some shoppers are still visiting stores earlier to enjoy the deep discounts offered by brands clearing excess inventory, others may be holding off for Black Friday. 

For more data-driven retail insights, visit Placer.ai.

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