- The “early” holiday shopping season posted the strongest sales since 2013 after jumping 2.2% year-over-year,Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts wrote Wednesday.
- The early period “is not great” at predicting total holiday season sales, but the analysts “would not be surprised” if spending grew as much as 4% from 2018.
- The revenue growth was driven by promotions beginning further ahead of Black Friday and a shift to e-commerce platforms from retail locations, the analysts said.
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The holiday shopping season is in full swing, and a new Bank of America Merrill Lynch note shows early spending trends at their strongest in years.
The “early” holiday shopping period, defined by the bank’s analysts as the 21 days ending Black Friday, saw sales rise 2.2% year-over-year to hit their highest since 2013, BAML found. Though the early period’s ability to predict total holiday sales “is not great,” the analysts said they “would not be surprised” if the season’s sales grow as much as 4% from 2018.
“The holidays still give people a good reason to shop. And shopping they are doing,” the team led by Michelle Meyer wrote.
The stronger sales growth was motivated by two trends, the bank noted. Consumers aren’t focusing on Black Friday as much as before, and are instead taking advantage of the promotions increasingly starting before then. The analysts used time stamps on debit cards at physical retailers to track the timing of late Thanksgiving and Black Friday spending, and found buying activity “much more evenly spread throughout the two days.”
Consumers are also shifting more of their shopping to e-commerce platforms from retail locations. Online shopping accounted for 38% of early holiday sales this year, up from 21% in 2010. Using e-commerce websites “makes it easier to search for promotions,” the team of analysts wrote, and online spending is projected to jump 14% year-over-year while brick-and-mortar revenue is expected to grow only 2%.
In a survey on shopping timing, 30% of respondents said they planned to do most holiday shopping in early December. Only 19% of those surveyed said they planned to shop during Thanksgiving week and Black Friday.
The results signal “consumers are no longer as focused on Black Friday,” and sales figures could accelerate through December as many wait “for the last minute” to finish holiday shopping, the analysts wrote.
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