Despite concerns about inflation and rising interest rates plaguing the 2022 holiday shopping season, retailers in New Jersey are optimistic that shoppers will open up their wallets – especially during the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend.
Ahead of the season’s official start on Black Friday, several forecasts have predicted that while consumers will spend, they’ll be looking to shop early – and wisely.
According to Cherry Hill-based TD Bank’s annual Merry Money survey, consumer concern around inflation is driving many to take even greater proactive steps to ensure they don’t overspend on gifts this year.
In the survey of 1,000 Americans, 74% said the economic environment is weighing heavily on their minds, compared to 66% who said the same in 2021. Despite this, 82% of consumers remain confident in their ability to manage their spending and 57% are creating a holiday-specific budget to stay on track, according to TD Bank.
A newly released poll from Stockton University found that two-thirds of shoppers said inflation is impacting their holiday spending and that 1 in 3 will spend less this year. Nearly half (46%) plan on spending the same, with only 13% shelling out more than last year. And, to prepare, 47% said they are spending less on everyday expenses to save more money for holiday spending, according to the poll of more than 500 New Jersey adults.
Across New Jersey, the annual pre-holiday sentiment survey conducted by Levin Management Corp. (LMC) found that the retail sector is mostly feeling merry and bright about the season.
Of the Plainfield-based firm’s 125-property portfolio, the survey found that 64% anticipate a positive holiday performance, an 8% decline from last year, while 25% said they were unsure how the season will play out, a 4.6% rise from 2021.
LMC Chief Executive Officer Matthew Harding said, “By all accounts, the retail industry has been enjoying a post-pandemic resurgence in 2022, and optimism continues. However, there is an overarching sense we are in changeable times – a sentiment extending well beyond the retail sector.”
Early starts and experiences
Just under half of respondents expect their sales to peak before or during the Black Friday weekend, up slightly from 2021, as more consumers start holiday shopping earlier, according to LMC.
In recent years, a growing number of big box retailers have opted to keep their doors closed on Thanksgiving Day and broadened Black Friday deals to several days or weeks. During the pandemic, the trend only intensified, with some chains offering those deep discounts as early as October.
At New Jersey’s second largest mall, Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, Senior General Manager Wesley Rebisz said they believe Black Friday will be busy, as shoppers look to “take advantage of the deals being offered by hundreds of retailers all in one place.”
“We’ve continued to see double-digit-percent increases in our spend per customer this year, as compared to 2019, and expect to have a strong holiday season,” he said. “We’re very fortunate at Garden State Plaza to have such loyal shoppers and we expect they will still come to us for their holiday purchases this season.”
Citing outlooks from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and Deloitte, Harding said, “These studies indicate consumers plan to spend more on holiday shopping this year, partly due to the simple fact things cost more, but also because they want to treat their loved ones and celebrate the season.”
“They also report that inflation pressures have consumers focused on finding the best deals, and early-season promotions will be especially popular,” he said.
Looking past factors beyond their control, more and more retailers in New Jersey are also focusing their energy in areas where they can move the needle this holiday season, according to LMC’s survey.
Nearly one-quarter said they were trying new ways to enhance customers’ holiday shopping experiences, such as with loyalty programs, stepped-up customer service initiatives, and implementation of offerings like click-and-collect and same-day delivery service.
For the holidays
Click here to take a look at some altruistic efforts from across the Garden State ahead of Thanksgiving.
Tenants are also increasingly adding more in-store events as a way to draw people through the doors.
For instance, American Dream in the Meadowlands has transformed itself into “Dreamland” for the holiday season. Along with enjoying sales and festive décor, mall-goers can visit an indoor winter garden, take photos with Santa Claus or catch a train ride with Geoffrey the Giraffe at Toys R Us.
Other experiences include ice skating with Santa at the mall’s National Hockey League regulation-sized rink, nightly lightings of a giant menorah, musical performances and a double-decker candy cane chute.
“When it comes to marketing, it is so important to evolve and take advantage of new opportunities,” said Melissa Sievwright, LMC’s vice president of marketing. “We are observing a laser focus on building customer relationships, which is crucial for brick-and-mortar as retailers work to counter e-commerce growth and gain market share within their competitive set. Companies that are in-tune with what inflation-stressed consumers want – value, convenience and service – are well positioned to prosper this holiday season and beyond.”
“While we may be past the ‘revenge shopping’ of 2021 – when pent-up demand fueled record sales – we see no lack of enthusiasm for being out in the world, shopping in stores and experiencing some in-person holiday cheer,” she said.
Numbers to know
- Across the U.S., a record 166.3 million people are expected to shop at some point between Black Friday and Cyber Monday – an increase of almost 8 million people from last year, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
- Of those shoppers, 69% plan to do so on Black Friday, while 38% are expected to hit up online sales on Cyber Monday, the NRF said.
- During Thanksgiving weekend, consumers plan to spend a total of $125 billion, a 10% increase over 2021, even with the holiday shopping season starting earlier this year than in previous years, ICSC found.
- According to Deloitte, 8 in 10 consumers will shop during Black Friday through Cyber Monday, up 71% from 2021, and are projected to spend an average of $500 over the weekend — about 50% of their holiday budgets. It’s also 12% more than they spent last year for the weekend.
- Altogether, holiday spending for the entire season could reach $960.4 billion, an 8% increase from 2021, the NRF forecasted.
“While there is much speculation about inflation’s impact on consumer behavior, our data tells us that this Thanksgiving holiday weekend will see robust store traffic with a record number of shoppers,” NRF President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay said.
“We are optimistic that retail sales will remain strong in the weeks ahead and retailers are ready to meet consumers however they want to shop with great products at prices they want to pay,” he added.