As this Holiday shopping season begins its final week, and children (and many adults, too) begin to eagerly anticipate the miracle of presents that spring up from under the tree on Christmas morning, many retailers are also hoping for their own Christmas miracle...survival.
The Holiday shopping season traditionally commences the weekend of Thanksgiving with "Black Friday" sales that seek to lure in blurry-eyed, turkey weary shoppers into brick and mortar stores with door buster bargains. However, what has retailers up at night is that for more and more shoppers, the drive to the mall parking lot is increasingly being replaced by coffee on the couch with a laptop. While most people still will choose to shop in physical stores, according to a recent survey conducted by Accenture Research 63 percent of consumers say that they will use a computer to make or assist in purchases this season, and 24 percent plan to use a smartphone. These numbers are up 16 percent and 18 percent, respectively, from 2013. Additionally, over half of all respondents to the Accenture survey planned to spend 50 percent or more of their Holiday dollars on online purchases. And, according to Neely Tamminga, a senior analyst with Piper Jaffray & Co., this is a trend that is only expected to rise given the "seismic shift" among teenagers and young adults who find searching hundreds of stores online more appealing than going to the mall.
Over the past several years, giant retailers such as Crowley's, Linens & Things, Circuit City, and Steve & Barry's, among others, have shut their doors. And, most recently, clothing retailers such as Delia's and Deb Stores have filed for chapter 11 relief as they look to liquidate through going out of business sales, as opposed to selling their businesses as a going concern enterprises. On the horizon, historical retail giants Toys R Us and Radio Shack appear to be on the brink, as each are struggling to keep stores open and generate cash to sustain operations.
In the 1890's, Sears, Roebuck & Co. revolutionized the retail industry by offering at-home, catalogue shopping to those living in rural areas. The reason for its success: it cut out the middle-man and allowed consumers the ability to conveniently get the goods and products they needed at a cheaper price. Today, the attraction of shopping online is very similar: the convenience of getting everything you need or want without having to travel to multiple stores, and in many cases, at a cheaper price. In the fast paced, instant gratification and multi-task society we presently live, the Internet has become the Sears Catalogue of the 21st century. Retailers both large and small need to have a strong online marketing and sales presence, or they may find themselves joining the dear departed that have gone before them.