Editor's Note: School Bells Giving Way to Sleigh Bells
As you read this, you're likely in the middle of or wrapping up your busy back-to-school season, so your thoughts may not be on the upcoming holidays. But if last year is any indication, you should probably start thinking about it. Holiday 2012 figures to be another blockbuster shopping season for cross-channel retailers.
Despite a less-than-stellar economy, holiday retail growth was up to pre-recession levels last year, with 2011 sales peaking at $465 billion, up 4.13 percent from 2010, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Retailers will be counting on a boost in sales in the final stretch of the holiday season this year because there are two extra shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year vs. a Sunday last year.
There are other reasons for retailers to be optimistic about the upcoming holiday season. According to the NRF's recent Global Port Tracker report, which helps retailers understand what's happening at the nation's ports by monitoring things like container volume imports and gate operations, there's been a significant increase in imports for August, September and October, the three key months of the year when retailers import the bulk of the merchandise they'll sell during the holiday season.
Furthermore, a survey released in August by nonbank lender Capital Business Credit showed optimism among consumer-goods suppliers about holiday sales. Forty-three percent of the suppliers surveyed — who sell goods to retailers such as Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney — believe holiday sales will be stronger this year, a significant increase from the 27 percent who felt that way in 2011.
There's also reason to believe that this year's holiday shopping season will begin earlier than ever. Christmas merchandise arrived at Costco on Aug. 1, and Sears, J.C. Penney, Wal-Mart and other retailers will be pushing holiday goods by the end of September, according to USA Today. Wal-Mart also announced in August that its holiday layaway program is back, this time a month earlier. The program starts on Sept. 16 and runs through Dec. 14.