Retailers Anticipate Modest-Growth Holiday Season

Annual Pre-Holiday Survey Shows Performance Optimism, Expectations of Early Peak Sales

Retailers in Levin Management Corporation’s (LMC’s) leased and managed shopping center portfolio are optimistic about 2023 holiday sales performance, though not necessarily expecting a repeat of the seasonal velocity recorded over the past three years. The North Plainfield-based commercial real estate services firm today released its 12th annual Pre-Holiday Retail Sentiment Survey findings, which also reinforce the well-documented shift of consumers shopping early.

Positive Expectations, Moderated Growth

Overall, two-thirds of store managers who participated in the LMC survey say they are optimistic about what the holiday season will bring for their businesses. Yet less than 20% of that group expects sales to be notably higher than last year. This aligns with recent reports from surveys by Deloitte, ICSC, National Retail Federation and others.

“The industry saw record seasonal growth in 2020 and 2021, followed by impressive performance again in 2022,” noted LMC’s Matthew K. Harding, chief executive officer. “All indicators point to another positive holiday period this year. That said, the crosscurrents of inflation and other economic concerns have retailers poised for comparatively modest sales increases.”

In fact, LMC survey participants ranked various drivers likely to impact seasonal performance. The economy/consumer confidence topped the list, followed by inflation. These significantly outweighed factors such as shifting consumer expectations/shopping patterns and ecommerce growth.

Peak Sales

Over the past decade, the LMC survey findings have tracked closely with the evolving trend of consumers shopping earlier for their holiday gift-giving purchases. The 2023 poll provides further evidence of that ongoing shift.

  • About 30% of LMC survey respondents anticipate their peak holiday sales will occur before the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend – a survey high.
  • The Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend tied with early December, with a combined 38% of survey respondents expecting their peak sales to occur in one of these timeframes.
  • Expectations of peak sales in mid-December and the weekend before Christmas tapered off considerably (with a combined 19% expecting peak sales), marking the lowest percentages in survey history for both periods.

“It comes as no surprise that cost-conscious consumers are shopping early to take advantage of sales and promotions,” Harding noted. “In general, there is a lot of discussion around shoppers doing more research and finding the best deals. And they are not waiting until the last minute, when their choices may be fewer. Additionally, Thanksgiving falls on the 23rd of November this year – the earliest possible date – which may well prompt even the more ‘traditional’ shoppers to get an earlier start than usual.”

LMC survey respondents also expect a spike in December; just over 13% expect their peak seasonal sales between the day after Christmas and New Year’s. This likely reflects the anticipated draw of clearance sales and specials, Harding noted.

Leveraging Brick-and-Mortar Advantage

Survey participants cited in-person customer service and support as the biggest advantage brick-and-mortar retail has over online shopping during this key time of year. Other top benefits include the festive experience of in-person holiday shopping, and the convenience and gratification of having the product immediately.

“Service, support and experience remain key hallmarks of physical retail in an evolving omni-channel holiday marketplace,” noted Melissa Sievwright, LMC’s vice president of marketing. “Our tenants know this, and they are responding accordingly.” In fact, a notable 37.5% of LMC survey respondents say they are leveraging new methods to enhance their customers’ holiday shopping experiences, such as new in-store customer services or loyalty programs.

Still, the key is getting them through the door, Sievwright noted. “Retailers know they have to do more to reach consumers and gain competitive advantage,” she said. “This is especially true during the hyper-competitive holiday season.” Within this context, nearly 30% of LMC survey respondents have committed more resources to holiday marketing this year. Nearly one quarter of respondents are incorporating new marketing tools for the season.

For seven decades, LMC has served as a trusted single-source commercial real estate services provider for institutional and private owners. The firm’s next Retail Sentiment surveys, which poll retail store managers in the firm’s 125-property, 16 million-square- foot leasing and management portfolio, will be conducted in January and June, exploring 2024 outlooks, and gauging technology trends and mid-year performance, respectively. The award-winning survey program reflects the firm’s commitment to understanding issues and trends impacting retailers from a street-level perspective.


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