Is the Holiday Shopping Season Not as Important to Retailers as Years Past?

The holidays have long been considered the most critical shopping season for retailers, but a new study is disputing the all-important nature of that fourth-quarter period.

According to advisory firm Coresight Research, retailers can expect to see a sales gain of 4% over the prior year during the months of November and December — below other widely reported consensus bets, including Deloitte‘s forecasted 4.5% to 5% spike.

For context, the study noted that overall retail sales for the past three months rose 4.1% year-over-year. It comes at a time when e-commerce continues to gain ground over brick-and-mortar, with Coresight predicting that more than 23% of sales will go online.

“The ongoing trend of holiday shopping [is] becoming less important to key retailers,” the study read, adding that the season used to make up nearly 24% of annual sales roughly two decades ago. Last year, that figure was closer to 21%, with the firm forecasting even lower sales in the future.

For clothing and accessories retailers, for instance, holiday sales represented 24.3% of their annual revenues in 1998, but fell to 22.4% last year. Department stores, on the other hand, saw a slighter drop with a 24.6% of total sales coming from the holiday season 20 years ago versus 23.8% in 2018 — but general merchandise took a deeper cut, with the season accounting for 23.5% in total sales in 1998 and now down to 20.4%.

Amazon’s Prime Day, held July 15-16, was cited as one of the retail period’s disruptors. This year alone, the online behemoth’s online extravaganza managed to sell 175 million items during its 48-hour “parade of epic deals.” (That total eclipsed its sales for last year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.)

Further demonstrating the power of e-commerce, dozens of other businesses that held competing sales during the same time also saw a boost: According to a separate report from Adobe Analytics, U.S. online retailers with annual revenues of at least $1 billion saw sales shoot up 64% on July 15, compared with an average Monday, and 72% on July 16, compared with an average Tuesday.

Retailers will also contend with other challenges that could dampen sales this holiday season: Those with parts of their supply chains based in China will face President Donald Trump’s additional 15% import tax on the second round of the fourth tranche of tariffs, scheduled to hit footwear, apparel, accessories and more consumer goods in mid-December.

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