Preparing for a Different Holiday Selling Season

Hardware retailers should prepare their stores for the holiday selling season to begin earlier.
Hardware retailers should prepare their stores for the holiday selling season to begin earlier.»

For hardware and home improvement retailers, like so many other retailers, the holiday selling season is most important, racking up huge sales.

Stores get decorated and remerchandised so they are more attractive and inviting. Christmas decorations sparkle. Maybe Santa Claus makes an appearance to entice and entertain the kiddies.

But it’s all going to be different this year, due to the pandemic.

The question is: will most retailers be prepared for a vastly different shopping experience by their customers?

In a comprehensive research study among several thousand American consumers, Field Agent Marketing unearthed some consumer attitudes in a timely study that gives retailers time to make some adjustments in their holiday planning. While the study was among American consumers, it is quite likely that some, if not all, of the changes will be made by consumers in other countries, due to the pandemic.

What is not surprising is that 69 percent of the survey respondents say the pandemic is going to have a major impact on how they do their holiday shopping, and it is those changes that retailers must recognize and adjust to. The others said it would have an impact, just not a major impact.

What are some of the changes? Not surprisingly, consumers will do more of their shopping online, so it will be vitally important for retailers (and the wholesalers that supply them) to have websites that make shopping easy and inviting. Websites should also showcase a vast assortment of suitable holiday merchandise.

It would seem smart for retailers to give their websites a little touch-up to enhance the holiday atmosphere, instead of having their sites look like they always have. If you cannot remember the last time you refreshed your website’s look and content, then that’s a pretty good indication it’s time to do it again.

Also not surprising is the fact that U.S. consumers said they would begin holiday shopping earlier, and it seems likely that this will be happening everywhere across the country. In addition, American consumers said they plan to make fewer shopping trips. The combination of earlier shopping and fewer trips means retailers need to get their stores ready earlier, their displays out and begin their advertising earlier.

In America, the period after Thanksgiving has traditionally been when holiday shopping and merchandising gets fully underway. This year that might be too late. There is a danger, however, because some consumers might think merchants are becoming too mercenary in starting earlier. It will be a delicate situation.

On the plus side, 83 percent of American consumers told Field Agent that they plan to spend about the same amount as other years, so budgets won’t be cut back by most people.

Twenty-three percent of American consumers plan to visit at least three stores, while an impressive 17 percent plan to visit between six and 10 stores. Store competition will require attractive decorations and innovative product presentations.

Of course Amazon, as expected, ranked number one as the top online merchant to be visited by consumers, followed by Walmart. Ninety-seven percent of the consumers interviewed said they are likely to buy gifts online.

For years, hardware retailers were very important toy retailers during the holiday season. Some still are, but the competition has become much tougher with the rise of Walmart with nearly 5,000 stores across America and value-retailer Dollar General with 16,000 stores offering some toys. Target is another strong holiday competitor, although it doesn’t have nearly the number of stores as Walmart. Now Amazon is added as a fierce competitor for toys and all other holiday merchandise.

Toys and electronics were ranked as the top two merchandise categories consumers would be seeking as gifts, followed by apparel for various family members. Forty-three percent of consumers surveyed said tools would be the top gifts for husbands, and kitchen appliances the top gifts for wives.

It truly will be different this Christmas.

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