Holiday 2012 has a fast e-start

December 12, 2012

Deal seeking marks the holiday season so far—and a way food stores could come out ahead in January.

Eyeing the Fiscal Cliff and the potential of higher taxes in 2013, consumers remain highly price-sensitive this holiday season. Their intense searches for low prices and free shipping show caution, even as sales grew during this Thanksgiving- Black Friday-Cyber Monday start to the season over the same period a year ago.

According to Citi Research, Thanksgiving online sales jumped 17.4%, Black Friday online sales rose 20.7%, and (citing IBM) Cyber Monday online sales leaped 30.3% over a year ago. Consumer spending this Cyber Monday was 36.0% higher than on this year’s Black Friday, which reflected good omni-channel strategies by retailers, says analyst Deborah Weinswig.

Digging deeper, she reports, “Cyber Monday shoppers searched more stores at a greater frequency in order to secure the best deals and free shipping.” As a result, the average order value declined 6.6% over a year ago to $185.12—but the average number of items per order was 14.1% ahead of this year’s Black Friday at 8.34. The mobile share of sales practically doubled to 13%, led by activity on iPad, iPhone and Android devices. The social media impact was less, however, as sales resulting directly from ad referrals on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube dropped 26% from a year ago.

With consumer confidence at a near five-year high, with signs that the housing sector might have finally bottomed out, and with unemployment figures abating slightly, shoppers may want to let go a bit of their financial tightness—except that taxes might rise in 2013 and mortgage interest deductions may be cut. So The Lempert Report sees most people playing it tight. To that end, e-purchases are so efficient for finding deals, avoiding crowds and keeping track of purchases that we see them encroaching further on the holiday season.

In a pre-Thanksgiving call with Citi, two senior Deloitte executives said 45% of respondents to its Holiday 2012 Survey will shop online this season, that shoppers overall will buy fewer gifts than in 2011, and as much as 5% of holiday spending will occur after Christmas Day.

Because Deloitte also said people prefer to receive gift cards, gift certificates and cash as gifts, we urge food sellers to market for gift card redemption at their stores. Once people return to their post-holiday routines and find credit card bills waiting in the January mail, these could be compelling traffic drivers.