2019 Holiday Season in Review


The 2019 holiday season broke records and closed the decade with a stronger consumer economy than predicted. Neither early winter storms, a late Thanksgiving holiday, concerns about tariffs, nor challenges at various ports across the United States could prevent a 4.1% year over year increase in holiday retail sales. While six days shorter than 2018 (and the shortest in the past seven years), the holiday season was wildly successful and builds positive momentum as we roll into 2020. The growth in retail sales was more than double the increase from 2017 to 2018. Cyber Monday broke all records and saw sales grow by approximately 20% vs. 2018. Significant growth occurred late at night, between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. It appears that shopping is moving up the list of favorite late night activities.

  In 2018, Cyber Week became a popular term within retail circles. This year, the concept was legitimized on several fronts. Digital revenue increased by 15% and retailers implemented additional strategies that helped spark increased sales. Retailers went on the offensive by actively seeking consumers wherever they were. Text messages to current, past and potential consumers increased by over 100%, and a focus on unique one-time deals on Giving Tuesday was a welcome boon for retailers. Highly sought-after millennials relied on phones to make over 80% of their purchases and that number is likely to continue to grow.

  A closer examination of 2019 holiday season’s retail sales showed that online and “non-store” sales were up 15% compared to 2018. Mobile shopping now accounts for more than half of the online traffic and 31% of the online revenue that was generated. Mobile revenue was highest over the weekends, an important part of the strategy to build conversion via smartphones. Looking ahead, the expectation is that mobile conversion and revenue will increase as retailers apply lessons learned this holiday season as they prepare their 2020 holiday strategy.

  Online sales are now a part of the mainstream consumer’s shopping journey. The goal for retailers is to get consumers to click “buy” online instead of getting them to walk through the store’s front door. A pleasant user experience and a seamless checkout experience is now more crucial than ever.

  The 2019 holiday season also legitimized the Buy Online Pickup In-Store concept. Orders increased by more than 47% year-over-year and confirmed that brick and mortar stores still have a significant role in the holiday shopping ecosystem. The addition of holiday-specific merchandise combined with in-store events resulted in a surge in sales at brick and mortar locations across the country. Ironically, there was less foot traffic (due to the click-and-collect volume) and more sales. Foot traffic was down 6.2% but overall sales were up, which shows the power of mobile shopping. This is a trend that retailers predict will grow in 2020.

  Holiday shopping continues to evolve. Mobile shopping and BOPIS will continue to grow. What will the brick and mortar stores look like for the next holiday season? Only time will tell.