Total Spending, Number of Shoppers Down During Black Friday Weekend

As reported by the National Retail Federation (NRF), roughly 87 million Americans visited stores on Black Friday. However, total spending for the long Thanksgiving weekend is projected to be down more than 10 percent from last year’s estimate.

According to an NRF survey released on Sunday, total spending for the four-day weekend is expected to reach $50.9 billion, a decrease of 11.3 percent from last year’s estimate of $57.4 billion. NRF data also estimates that 133.7 million shoppers will have visited stores this weekend, down 5 percent year-over-year and below the expected number of 140.1 million. The survey also estimates flat growth in online sales.

This data follows strong starts reported by some retailers for the Black Friday weekend. Both Wal-Mart Stores and Target Corp. began offering special Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving Day, beginning at 6 p.m. While neither Wal-Mart nor Target has reported specific sales figures, both claimed a high number of customers that shopped at stores as well as online. [Read more...]

Gift Cards Are Shoppers’ Choice This Holiday Season, Says NRF

nrfThis holiday season, gift card spending is set to top all previous records. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF)’s Gift Card Spending Survey, the average person buying gift cards will spend $172.74, up from $163.16 last year, with total spending expected to reach $31.74 billion. In an October NRF survey, 62 percent of shoppers said they would like to receive a gift card, making gift cards the most requested gift item for eight years in a row.

According to the survey, shoppers will spend more on average per card than they did last year, with total spending on gift cards increasing 83 percent since NRF began tracking consumers’ intentions to buy gift cards as holiday gifts in 2003.

The survey found adults 65 and up will spend the most on gift cards, with young adults between 18 to 24 years old spending the least, and men planning to spend significantly more than women ($180.81 versus $165.09, respectively).

Shoppers noted the ease of buying, the ability to allow recipients to select their own gifts, and sticking to holiday budgets as top reasons for choosing gift cards over traditional gifts. Gift cards for department stores, restaurants, and coffee shops are expected to be top choices this holiday season.

Frozen Continues to Dominate Toy Aisles as More than 3 Million Character Dresses Sold

Disney Consumer Products' VIP Halloween EventMore than 3 million Disney Frozen Elsa and Anna role-play dresses have been sold at Disney Store and mass retailers in North America in less than a year, according to Disney Consumer Products. Elsa and Anna also led costume sales by double digits at all Disney Store locations in North America. In addition, the National Retail Federation’s 2014 Halloween Consumer Top Costumes Survey said that an estimated 2.6 million children planned to dress up as one of Disney’s Frozen characters this Halloween.

Since Frozen’s release last November, Disney Publishing Worldwide and its licensees have published more than 800 Frozen print titles globally and more than 35 e-books in the U.S. The Disney Karaoke: Frozen app has reached the No. 1 spot in the iPad Entertainment Downloads category in more than 100 countries worldwide, and the Disney Frozen: Free Fall app is Disney Interactive’s top-grossing and most downloaded app of the year.

[Read more...]

Retailers Re-Focus Shipping Calendar in Preparation for Surge in Online Shopping, Reports NRF

nrfExpectations are high for a strong omnichannel holiday season, so retailers are preparing their shipping operations to avoid delivery and service hiccups, according to Shop.org, a division of the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Shop.org’s eHoliday survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, indicates that nearly eight in 10 retailers surveyed, or roughly 78.8 percent, will set their standard shipping deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery to expire at least a week before the big day. This compares to 73.7 percent last holiday season. In addition, approximately 21.2 percent will set their standard shipping deadlines to expire on December 19 or later, compared to 26.3 percent last year.

Of the 92.3 percent of retailers polled that plan to offer free standard shipping of some sort this holiday season, 69.1 percent said their guarantee for Christmas delivery will expire on or before December 19. Nearly three quarters of retailers polled last year, or 74.2 percent, had a deadline on the equivalent day; in this case, December 20. [Read more...]

NRF Offers Optimistic Forecast for Holiday Sales and Hires

The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects sales (excluding auto, gas, and restaurant sales) to increase 4.1 percent to $616.9 billion in November and December, higher than 2013’s 3.1 percent increase during that same time frame. This would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales would increase more than 4 percent.

Holiday sales on average have grown 2.9 percent over the past 10 years, including 2014’s estimates, and are expected to represent approximately 19.2 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion.

NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using several indicators including consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. It now includes direct-to-consumer, kiosk, and online sales.

Additionally, NRF expects between 725,000 and 800,000 new seasonal employers for the holiday shopping season, potentially more than retailers hired in 2013.

NRF’s shop.org division expects online sales to grow 8 to 11 percent more than last holiday season.

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Record Imports Expected as West Coast Port Talks Continue

nrfImport volume at major U.S. container ports is expected to hit an all-time record in August as retailers concerned about the lack of a West Coast longshoremen’s contract rush to bring holiday season merchandise into the country, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates.

Import volume at U.S. ports covered by the Global Port Tracker report is expected to total 1.54 million containers this month, which is the highest monthly volume since NRF began tracking import volume in 2000. It tops a previous record of 1.53 million set in July, as well as unusually high numbers seen this spring as retailers began importing merchandise early in anticipation of this summer’s contract talks.

The contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired on July 1. Dockworkers remain on the job as both sides continue to negotiate a new agreement.

NRF Revises Annual Economic Forecast to Expect Stronger Second Half of Year

The National Retail Federation has lowered its retail sales forecast for the rest of the year. Originally, slow growth was recorded during the first half of the year, but growth is expected to be significantly faster over the next five months. NRF forecasted in January that retail sales would grow 4.1 percent this year over 2013, but has since revised that number to 3.6 percent.

NRF calculated that sales grew 2.9 percent during the first half of the year and are expected to grow at least 3.9 percent during the second half. The numbers include general retail sales and non-store sales, and exclude automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants. This winter’s severe weather contributed to the slow growth during the first quarter, but a second look at the forecast is positive, expecting growth to increase, manufacturing to expand, and the employment rate to remain its strongest since 2005.

Thanksgiving Weekend Spending According to the NRF

logoAccording to the National Retail Federation (NRF), American shoppers took advantage of tons of Thanksgiving weekend deals. More than 141 million unique shoppers have shopped through the end of Thanksgiving weekend, up from 139 million over the same time frame last year.

Between all of the low prices and aggressive discounts, holiday shoppers have started earlier than ever this year, spending $407.02 on average, from Thursday through Sunday. More than 75 percent of shoppers tended to be young people between the ages of 18 and 34.

Although a lot of shopping was done in store, 40 percent of people indicated that they shopped online over the weekend (approximately 59 million shoppers). Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular as retailers tout special holiday savings through their mobile apps and web sites. Clothes, electronics, and books, DVDs, and video games were among popular items purchased over the weekend.

NRF Finds More Gift-Givers are Giving Gift Cards

NRF LogoAccording to NRF’s Gift Card Spending Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, holiday shoppers are opting to give gift cards. They may be small, but they’re a fool-proof option for gift givers buying for friends and family members.

The survey also revealed that people prefer receiving gift cards, and that consumers are spending more on them. The go-to gift cards that people are giving include ones to stores, restaurants, coffee houses, and gas stations.

Letting the recipient choose his or her own gift is a trend that more and more people feel comfortable with; however, there are still some people who believe that gift cards are too impersonal.

NRF Report Finds No Retailer Immune to Organized Retail Crime

Retailers are reporting organized retail crime (ORC) has become more troublesome than ever before. Of the 125 retail companies surveyed for the National Retail Federation’s (NRF’s) eighth annual ORC Survey, 96 percent say their company has been the victim of organized retail crime in the past year, up from 94.5 percent last year.

“What this tells us is that as retailers and law enforcement become more aware of and more proactive in pursuing organized retail crime gangs, criminals have become more desperate and brazen in their efforts, stopping at nothing to get their hands on large quantities of merchandise,” said NRF Vice President of Loss Prevention, Rich Mellor.

Cargo theft continues to grow at an alarming rate, posing huge problems for retailers and their distribution centers. On average, 52.1 percent of companies say they have been a victim of cargo theft in the past 12 months. A significantly higher percent of companies this year said cargo theft occurs mostly en route from the distribution center to the store (68.1 percent vs. 57.4 percent last year), while 43.5 percent say these incidents also occur en route from manufacturer to distribution center.

When asked what new trends exist in organized retail crime, retailers cited familiar issues involving the economy, returned stolen merchandise, gift card fraud, and increases in violent activity upon apprehension. However, new to the list of trends this year were specific references to digital receipt fraud, increased smash and grab incidents, and collusion with street gangs.

“Though retailers continue to make great strides in their fight against organized retail crime, sophisticated criminals with unending opportunities and anonymous outlets to sell their stolen merchandise are proving to be quite challenging for both retailers and law enforcement agencies working to combat this issue,” said NRF Senior Asset Protection Advisor Joe LaRocca “With the types of organized retail crimes changing in severity and scope every day, and cargo theft and violent instances becoming more troubling, retailers are constantly on high alert.”

Despite the increase in incidents, more companies this year believe law enforcement is aware of and understands the severity and complexity of the issue (40.0% vs. 32.3% in 2011). More than half say top management at their company is aware of the problems associated with organized retail crime. NRF strongly believes that organized retail crime must be addressed through Federal legislation by amending the Federal Criminal Code to effectively address the organized and serious nature of this issue, properly defining it as a federal crime with appropriate sentencing guidelines, and providing Federal law enforcement the resources needed to combat this crime.

This post was originally written by Leah Rocketto and published by ToyBook.com. For more news, visit www.toybook.com, follow The Toy Book on Twitter, and like The Toy Book on Facebook. The Toy Book is a bimonthly trade magazine covering the toy industry, published by Adventure Publishing Group.