Analysts, S.F. Chamber official optimistic about holiday shopping season

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Despite a pandemic, it appears people are willing to spend money this holiday season, according to several sources watching retail trends.

In Sioux Falls, a local chamber official said some upticks in retail shopping, including home improvement items and the infusion of COVID-19 relief money in checks to individuals, are some reasons to be optimistic about the holiday season.

“I anticipate, we’re optimistic we’re going to have a strong shopping season,” said Jeff Griffin president and CEO of the Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce. “Because A. people have some dollars and B. I think families want to control what they can control and part of the celebration or treating yourself or families to something extra special this year, I really think we’re gonna see that happen.”

Still, Griffin said he knows that some businesses and families are still struggling during the pandemic.

The National Retail Federation said on Nov. 23 that holiday sales during November and December will increase between 3.6% and 5.2% over 2019. Those percentage increases would total between $755.3 billion and $766.7 billion.

Deloitte, a multi professional firm that works with tax, auditing, financial services and others, has a more conservative forecast of 1% to 1.5% increase in 2020 holiday sales compared with the same period in 2019. The forecast was made on Sept. 15.

A third organization, CBRE, forecasts holiday retail sales growth of less than 2% this year. CBRE stands for Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis, a real estate company that works in advisement and related fields. CBRE made its prediction in October.

All three organizations forecast growth in the e-commerce portion of retail trade but less growth in the brick and mortar stores. CBRE predicted e-commerce sales will account for 32% of all total retail sales in November and December as holiday e-commerce sales will increase by at least 40% over last year.

From June through September, the city of Sioux Falls has shown an increase in remote sales, according to figures from the city’s financial department. Remote retail sales increased by 34% in September over the same time in 2019. That was down from 38% in August and 54% in July.

But at least some of the spending shifted to brick and mortar stores in September. Retail and general merchandise stores posted a 10% growth in sales, according to the city of Sioux Falls’ October financial report on Nov. 17.

Griffin said that several years ago there was more separation between online services and brick and mortar stores when the traditional stores didn’t have much of an online presence. More businesses are poised to take advantage of increases in e-commerce shopping.

“Especially this year, I see so many more small businesses that have increased their online presence,” Griffin said. “There’s more infrastructure around that online market place for them to plug into.”

But why the difference in predicted growth in shopping for the holiday season?

Deloitte says that uncertainty marks this year’s holiday shopping. The public may still be worried about finances, health and safety.

But news of an upcoming vaccine and a second coronavirus relief package, could cause more confidence in spending, Deloitte said.

The NRF said the first round of COVID-19 relief checks has boosted consumer savings accounts and can be used for holiday shopping. Wages and the stock market have also increased which have bolstered the overall economy, the NRF said.

A downturn in the travel industry and in other areas related to personal expenses should also have a positive impact on holiday shopping, according to the NRF. The money that may have been spent on those items can be spent on holiday shopping.

The economy has improved, CBRE said, but the spiking COVID-19 cases this fall and possibly this winter will cause uncertainty.

CBRE said the shift in spending from travel and similar will help with more traditional holiday shopping.

Sioux Falls has a particular environment that’s advantage for holiday shopping, Griffin said.

“I know this, there is an optimism in Sioux Falls that doesn’t exist in the rest of the country,” Griffin said. Some chambers have lost 30% to 40% of membership and there is a real panic, he said. That’s not the case locally, he said.

“I do believe we have a safe shopping and social environment for folks who choose to do that,” Griffin said.

The 2020 holiday season will not be traditional because of the pandemic. It’s already gotten an earlier start.

The NRF defines the holiday season as Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 but it pointed out early holiday shopping in its forecast.  Retail sales were up 10.6% in October versus October 2019, which was likely driven in part by early holiday shopping, according to the NRF.

And an NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics survey said 59% of the shoppers had done some holiday shopping by Nov. 1.

The CBRE predicted in October that it expected many retailers to start their holiday sales before Halloween to meet consumer demand.

The holiday shopping season can be a time to help struggling businesses.

Griffin said businesses such as hair saloons and even dog kennels are examples of small businesses that have struggled during the pandemic. If people aren’t traveling they don’t need to put the dog in the kennel.

Gift cards or subscriptions to those types of businesses can be an option for holiday gifts, Griffin said.

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