Rumors of the death of the brick-and-mortar retail store this holiday shopping season seem to be exaggerated. Nearly three-quarters of consumers polled say they plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping in physical stores, according to a new survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers by AlixPartners.
The survey follows on the heels of the release last week of AlixPartners’ forecast of a potential increase in U.S. holiday sales of 3.5% to 4.4%.
The winners in this environment will likely be those who truly master ‘clicks-and-bricks’ strategies, without short shrifting the ‘bricks’ part. Also important is localizing assortments, marketing and promotions to match today’s fast-changing markets, including at the regional level and below. And last but not least, making the necessary efforts and investment to understand today’s customer.
The AlixPartners survey finds, despite massive store closures nationwide across retail this year, that 71% of consumers say they plan to do half or more of their holiday shopping in stores this season, the same percentage who said that in a similar AlixPartners poll a year ago. Additionally, this year’s survey also finds that the vast majority (88%) plan on at least visiting stores this holiday season.
However, the survey results also make it clear that retailers face a host of complex and demanding trends this holiday season, including some related to recent store closures around the country, according to AlixPartners.
“Our survey suggests that companies won’t be facing anything like the so-called retail apocalypse this holiday season, but they certainly will be facing a difficult conundrum—how to deal with an unprecedented mix of increasingly complex channel, customer, and competitive dynamics,” says Joel Bines, co-head of the AlixPartners’ retail practice and a managing director at the firm.
Customer demographics, lifestyles, and attitudes are changing and successful retailers are adjusting accordingly, says Roshan Varma, a VP in the retail practice at AlixPartners and an author of the survey.
Competitors Could Benefit from Store Closures
Nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents in the survey say they’ve been personally affected by store closures—specifically, that a store they “visit frequently” has closed in the past 12 months. Moreover, of that number, 20% are those earning $100,000 a year or more, the kind of high-earners most retailers yearn for, according to AlixPartners.
On the plus side, only 6% of all respondents say that if a store they frequently visit closed or closes, they’ll no longer make their purchase. However, over a third (36%) say they would instead shop at a competitor—suggesting that while sales may not just evaporate, individual retailers may have a tough time hanging onto what they had before.
AlixPartners also reports a reflection of increasing challenges retailers may face this holiday season are that 80% of those in the survey say they have conducted online research as part of their in-store shopping process, including from inside the store itself. That’s up from 62% in a similar AlixPartners survey in 2015. (The question wasn’t asked in last year’s survey.)
More to Spend More this Season
On the good-news front, the survey finds that 84% of consumers say they expect to spend the same or more this holiday season, up 1 percentage point vs. AlixPartners’ poll last year. In addition, an also-whopping 93% say they expect to start their holiday shopping at the same time as last year or earlier, and of those who expect to start shopping earlier, 42% expect to spend “somewhat” or “significantly” more than they did last year.
Among the other findings in the AlixPartners survey:
- 92% of respondents say they plan to use online sources to research their purchases during the holiday shopping season
- Consumer electronics is the most online-researched retail category in the survey, with 38% of respondents saying they’ve conducted online research
- Apparel and footwear have the highest online sales penetration in the poll, with 37% of respondents saying they’ve made an online purchase
Varma suggests that retailers provide customers with truly integrated omnichannel strategies and ramp up efforts to drive customers into stores by offering exclusive merchandise, engaging experiences, and knowledgeable and helpful sales associates.
“The winners in this environment will likely be those who truly master ‘clicks-and-bricks’ strategies, without short shrifting the ‘bricks’ part,” Bines adds. “Also important is localizing assortments, marketing, and promotions to match today’s fast-changing markets, including at the regional level and below. And last but not least, making the necessary efforts and investment to understand today’s customer.”