by Nissa Hanna
It’s the beginning of a new year, and the numbers are rolling in for the still-warm holiday shopping season. The results for retailers: Black Friday weekend didn’t disappoint, with record-setting sales and an increase of 16% in total spending from 2010. But then … commerce crickets. Consumers, perhaps taking a page from the US congressional playbook, held out for 11th-hour bargains, giving retailers a 14.8% total retail increase in the week leading up to the Christmas holiday.
While gift purchasing is a special type of shopping behavior, it hasn’t been immune to the austerity audit that consumers have implemented in their standard shopping trips. And Iconoculture has reported on emerging and morphing cash-savvy coping strategies since the start of the recession: from practical gifting in 2008 to group gifting in 2010 to unseasonal gift shopping in 2011.
What does this mean for marketers? Don’t discount the bargain-shopping experience — make it fun: For many gift givers, the sale rack is the primary playground, not a secondary option. Old Navy sweetened the deal dig with the November 2011 debut of its Snap Appy smartphone app, which connected shoppers to discounts, games and fashion tips. Amp exclusivity: Limited-edition items can still send shoppers’ hearts racing. Gaga’s Workshop at Barneys wowed customers with a Wonderland-like setup and exclusive collection of unique Gaga-themed clothing, treats and accessories. Extend the gift of convenience: Especially during the holidays, consumers have their heads and hands full, but they still crave seasonal cheer. This last year, JCPenney rolled out Wrapt, an easy-on-the-eyes grab-’n’-go display of “affordable luxury” gifts from partners like Dylan’s Candy Bar and the Museum of Modern Art.
Today, there’s no shame in shopping smart for gifts. Whether consumers have already started stockpiling for next season or won’t start looking until mid-December, they’re finding personal, creative and smart ways to wrap up the task.