2014 holiday shopping season 
a study in contrasts

In case you haven’t noticed, the 2014 holiday shopping season has begun. The chains began decorating stores in September, even before back-to-school season concluded, while digital, clothing and toy product lines were methodically rolled out.

Any reading of retail industries’ projections suggest lessons learned from missteps in recent years and some familiar trend lines holding steady:

• Deloitte LLP, the retail market-research firm, expects holiday sales to increase 4 to 4.5 percent, about double 2013’s performance.
• Digital and toy sectors will rule.
• Store hours will stretch even further.
• Online shopping may grow, but only modestly.
• Shopping will begin earlier — and so will shipping those gifts.

It is likely, too, that holiday hiring will see a boost over last year, according to Deloitte and other consulting firms.

But the declining health of shopping malls also will be a factor. As forecast in the September edition of Trends Monthly, our new electronic newsletter: “The holiday shopping season will be strong for community-based mom-and-pop operations that know their customers, customize products and services to community tastes and offer personalized interaction with consumers.”

We anticipate the season will see further strengthening of this sector — not only in terms of sales, but in community spirit as well, which ultimately drives sales.

Local chambers of commerce and community groups have been creating events built around promoting local business, values and community spirit in one bundle. These events stand in contrast to the Santa photo shoots and frenzied product sales and promotions that malls and big boxes have leveraged for years.

While the mom-and-pops can’t compete in the national brands and products arenas, they have become savvy in promoting local products and community values to neighbor-to-neighbor groups that share the same interests and needs.

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