This week we’ll get a pulse on retail, thanks to earnings reports from companies like Walmart, Target, Kohl’s and Home Depot, as well as new retail sales data out on Wednesday.
Headed into the holiday season, companies in that sector are planning discounts and promotions that they hope will keep us spending, despite inflation, and help clear out some excess inventory.
It’s been a wonky couple of years for holiday shopping. In 2020, the pandemic was the major disruption. In 2021, it was snarled supply chains. This year, it’s inflation.
At the very top of retailers’ wish list? “That consumers are going to get out there and actually spend,” said Sonia Lapinsky at AlixPartners.
The sector is marketing to a different type of holiday shopper than last year, one who’s pickier and more price-conscious, she said. “Retailers are hoping that they can keep as much of the consumer wallet share as possible given that there’s the pressure of inflation and looming potential economic worry.”
Maybe you’ve already noticed some even earlier promotions and discounts. They could help retailers check another item off their list: “To get rid of as much extra inventory in our supply chain as we can,” said Terry Esper, a professor of logistics at Ohio State University.
Big-box stores are still buried in toaster ovens and loungewear, Esper said, thanks to a sharp turn in the way consumers were spending their money earlier this year.
“I also think that, from a wish list perspective, we would be remiss if we did not highlight the labor conversation,” he said.
Challenges staffing up for the holidays in a still-tight labor market are part of why retailers are hoping we’ll ditch some old, pre-pandemic shopping habits, said economist Shannon Seery with Wells Fargo.
“One thing I guess retailers might not be looking forward to that would be returning is the Black Friday sales environment.”
Hence, holiday sales and promotions that are starting in October and are expected to continue through January.
“Retailers are almost wishing for a more steady pace of holiday spending rather than a mad dash to those holiday sales,” Seery said.
Another thing they’re wishing for? Some degree of normalcy and predictability so they won’t have to do so much guessing about what consumers want and how much they’re willing or able to spend.