Positioning Retail Real Estate for a New Generation

October 31, 2019

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The Holiday Season has Arrived for Retail, and It’s Looking Like a Good One

Annual Levin Management Survey Reflects Focus on Customer Satisfaction

NORTH PLAINFIELD, N.J., Oct. 31, 2019 – With 26 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas – the shortest possible window – the 2019 holiday season is arriving early, according to Levin Management Corporation’s (LMC’s) retail tenants. The North Plainfield-based commercial real estate services firm today released the findings of its eighth annual Pre-Holiday Retail Sentiment Survey, reflecting strong optimism for this key sales period.

In fact, 27.7% of survey respondents expect their peak seasonal sales to come prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, with 28.5% anticipating peak sales during Black Friday/Thanksgiving weekend. These statistics – mirrored industrywide with major retailers launching their holiday sales and promotions in late October and early November – are significant, noted LMC’s Matthew K. Harding, chief executive officer.

“When we launched our Pre-Holiday Survey in 2012, 15.3% of participants expected peak sales during the Black Friday weekend,” Harding said. “Discussion of ‘seasonal creep’ was just beginning at that point; when we first asked about pre-Thanksgiving sales in 2013, only 13.5% of our respondents thought their peak would come so early. Today, well more than half of participants – a pool drawn from Levin’s 105-property, 15 million-square-foot leasing and management portfolio – are gearing up for a busy November.”

LMC tenants’ enthusiasm is reflected in expectations of a strong holiday season. Nearly 88.0% of respondents anticipate their holiday sales will meet or exceed last year’s level – the highest percentage in survey history. Robust year-to-date sales and traffic likely contribute to this positive outlook, with 71.4% reporting same/higher year-to-date sales (near last year’s historic high of 72.1%) and 67.8% reporting same/higher year-to-date traffic (an LMC Pre-Holiday Survey high).

“Our retailers are excited about the holiday season, and with good reason,” Harding noted. “A recent study by the International Council of Shopping Centers concludes that holiday spending in 2019 will increase 4.9% year over year, with 90% of adults in the United States planning to shop in-store for holiday gifts and goods. Deloitte forecasts up to a 5% year-over-year jump in holiday sales. Barring any unforeseen or accelerated socio-economic issues, all indicators are looking good.”

Gearing Up for a Happy Holiday Season

LMC retailers are taking a number of measures to maximize their holiday sales potential and enhance customers’ shopping experiences. For their expected peak sales periods, more than one-third of respondents are planning special sales and promotions (38.8%) and boosted inventory (37.2%). Others are adding staff and planning in-store events for peak-sales days. For the full holiday period, nearly 40% are adding seasonal staff.

“There is a growing emphasis on customer satisfaction and convenience, as brick-and-mortar retailers continue to find ways to differentiate themselves from ecommerce and other physical-store competitors,” noted Melissa Sievwright, LMC vice president of marketing. “Our survey asked store managers whether they are trying anything new this year to enhance their clients’ holiday shopping experience. Nearly 30% reported they are ‘upping the ante,’ with first-time offerings such as entertainment, an increased variety of products and services, and offerings like in-store pickup and returns for online purchases.”

According to Sievwright, technology is playing an increasingly important role in retail marketing, and the holiday season is no exception. “While ‘impulse buys’ will always be part of the mix – evidenced by the high volume of ancillary in-store sales generated by shoppers picking up online orders – today’s consumer is likely to research higher-ticket items online before making their in-store purchases,” she said. “Further, they are using their mobile devices in real-time to grab coupons and compare pricing before they check out.”

To that end, more than three quarters (77.1%) of LMC Pre-Holiday Survey participants are using technology tools in their 2019 holiday marketing. Almost half of those respondents (47.3%) have increased their amount of tech-centered marketing this year. “Many are embracing new-to-their-company tools including social media, text messaging and others in their marketing mix,” Sievwright noted. “These survey findings are encouraging. There is no doubt we are living in a digital world, and retailers who embrace this fact are best positioned to thrive.”

LMC’s next Retail Sentiment surveys will be conducted in January, exploring outlooks for 2020, and in May, exploring technology trends and mid-year sales performance. For nearly seven decades, LMC has served as a trusted single-source commercial real estate services provider for institutional and private owners. LMC today maintains a diversified portfolio in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The firm’s capabilities continue to evolve with new technologies, efficiencies and sustainability-focused initiatives to serve a new generation of properties, investors and tenants.

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