Our 10th Annual Retail Compass Survey of CMOs Reveals 5 Holiday Season Sales Trends To Pay Attention To

With less than 50 days until the holidays, retailers are ramping up their seasonal marketing strategies to encourage strong sales. How do retailers expect they will fare this season? We uncover this and more in our 10th annual Retail Compass Survey of CMOs, in which we survey 100 retail chief marketing officers (CMOs) to gauge their 2015 holiday shopping season expectations.

Here are a few of the many trends retail CMOs predict for this holiday sales season:
  1. 4.2 Percent Increase in Overall Holiday Sales: A modest increase from 2014 (4.1 percent), this year’s projection is also only slightly higher than the National Retail Federation’s expected increase of 3.7 percent. This small year-over-year increase could be attributed to increasingly parsimonious consumers, who are a product of the recession and not shopping as much as they once did despite their improving purchasing power.
  2. Gift Card Sales Settle: It appears gift card sales are leveling off, with only 43 percent of CMOs expecting them to increase—down nearly one-third from 2013, when 61 percent of CMOs expected gift card sales to grow.
  3. Inventory Levels Set to Increase Despite Cautious Optimism: Retailers expect overall inventory to grow by 3.4 percent, up from 1.1 percent in 2014, with half planning to increase their holiday season inventory purchases. This is nearly double the number of retailers who planned to increase inventory last year. Signs of broader economic improvement and growing consumer confidence may be encouraging retailers to ramp up their inventory levels: The Conference Board reports that its consumer confidence index increased to 103 in September—its highest level since January.
  4. Unemployment Diminishes as a Concern: Overall, only a small percentage of retailers (26 percent) believe unemployment will have an impact on their holiday sales, down from 45 percent last year. Healthy job growth—reaching an average pace of 200,000 jobs added per month since 2013—could be contributing to this notable decrease in concern. However, with the global economy experiencing sharp and lasting pains, the number of retailers worried about global market volatility tripled, from 7 percent in 2014 to 21 percent this year.
  5. Consumers Continue to Display Their Love for the Latest and Greatest Technology: Sixty-seven percent of retail CMOs anticipate that consumer electronics will once again be the top-performing product category this holiday season, while 51 percent expect they will also be the most discounted. According to the U.S. Consumer Electronics Sales and Forecasts, revenues for the consumer electronics industry are projected to grow 3 percent this year and reach an all-time high of $223.2 billion. Meanwhile, apparel (cited by 14 percent of CMOs) is expected to remain the second highest performing segment.

Stay tuned in the weeks ahead as we release additional insights from our 10th annual Retail Compass Survey of CMOs, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales projections, as well as expectations around promotional activity and tactics.