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Shoppers, Retailers Extend The Holiday

NEW YORK — A surfeit of last-minute shoppers compelled retailers to push their pre-Christmas ship dates and promotions to the limit.

According to an hhgregg-sponsored survey of 3,500 consumers, a whopping 65 percent didn’t expect to complete their holiday shopping until the last two weeks before Christmas.

“This survey has given us insights into holiday shopping habits and has challenged us to come up with the best last-minute deals,” said CEO Dennis May.

Also at stake was what market research firm ShopperTrak expected would be the busiest sales day of the year: so-called “Super Saturday (Dec. 20), which was projected to pull in close to $10 billion in sell-through.

The anticipated take would return the last-Saturday- before Christmas to the top sales spot for the first time in 10 years, ShopperTrak said. In the process, it would also push Black Friday to No. 3 in traffic, behind the day-after-Christmas (Dec. 26), and propel the season toward the firm’s forecasted $276 billion in total holiday spend, a gain of 3.8 percent over 2013.

“This year we witnessed ‘a tale of two holiday shoppers,’ with many jumping on retailers’ early, hard-topass- up in-store and online promotions, and others waiting until the last minute to wrap up their lists,” said Matthew Shay, president/CEO of the National Retail Federation (NRF), an industry trade group. “In the final stretch, retailers will continue to look for creative ways to attract those with shopping left to do by offering exclusive Super Saturday promotions, extending their in-store holiday hours and promoting deals on expedited shipping.”

The eleventh-hour crush wasn’t lost on Jon Abt, co-president of Chicagoland’s Abt Electronics. “We’re expecting a monster weekend,” he told TWICE on the eve of Super Saturday.

To grab their share of the last-minute crowd, retailers and e-tailers used every lever at their disposal, including free shipping, extended delivery deadlines, longer store hours and, of course, more discounts.

Best Buy, for one, used all of the above. Its stores remained open until 11 p.m. the weekend before Christmas and up to midnight on Monday and Tuesday of that week. What’s more, overnight shipping was available for online orders placed on Christmas Eve, and customers were given until 4 p.m. on that afternoon to place an online order for in-store pickup before the doors closed at 6 p.m.

Best Buy’s best buys included $50 off iPads through Super Saturday; iPhone 6 for $200 with contract; and discounts of up to $300 on 2-in-1 laptops.

At Target, store hours were stretched to new extremes. Online orders could be placed as late at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve for in-store pick up as late as 10 p.m. that evening. Meanwhile, the chain’s season-long free-shipping-oneverything offer ended on Super Saturday, the last day that online orders were guaranteed to arrive by Christmas.

“We know our guests have a lot to tackle the week before Christmas and we want to make sure shopping remains fun and stress-free,” said Kathee Tesija, Target’s chief merchandising and supply chain officer.

The discounter’s last-minute deals included a 32-inch Magnavox LED TV for $170; a $50 savings; Samsung’s Galaxy 10-inch Tab 4 16GB tablet for $280, a $70 savings; and 15 percent off Sony Play- Station 4 bundles through Target’s “Cartwheel” mobile app., which is limited by the capabilities of its express delivery providers, nonetheless pushed its dropdead ship dates even further out, to Dec. 22 for two-day shipping; Dec. 23 for one-day shipping; and Dec. 24 for same-day shipping on a million eligible items in 12 major metro areas.

The e-tailer also offered some lastminute deals on its Fire tablets and Kindle e-readers, including discounts of up to $25 on the devices.

But Christmas hardly marked the end of the holiday season. The hhgregg poll also showed that 59 percent of consumers planned to shop post-holiday sales, compared to the 47 percent that did so on Black Friday, and with the day-after-Christmas falling right before a weekend, it was well-positioned to become the second- busiest shopping day of 2014.

“Between gift card redemptions and returns, the post-Christmas season will be busy,” observed Abt. “We expect a good run through Super Bowl season.”