Louisiana holiday shopping expected to top 2016 totals because of two key factors (The Advocate)

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BY TIMOTHY BOONE | TBOONE@THEADVOCATE.COM

NOV 19, 2017 - 12:30 AM

National retail organizations are projecting consumers will spend 3.6 percent to 4 percent more this holiday shopping season than in 2016, and activity at Louisiana stores should be even better than that.

Helping stoke demand in south Louisiana is that households have largely recovered from the devastating summer 2016 floods, and the oil and gas industry has started to turn around after bottoming out, said Dan Rice, an associate marketing professor at LSU.

“People are back on the ground, spending more on the types of things you buy during the holiday season,” he said. While insurance payments to flood-damaged households that were covered boosted spending locally in late 2016, Rice said most of that money went to things like building supplies and appliances.

“On Black Friday, most of the spending is on more fun things, like TVs, electronics, video games and toys — more of the things that are wants and not needs,” he said.

Over at the Mall of Louisiana, Jake Wilson, general manager, said he expects sales this year will top the 2016 numbers.

“Holiday season sales in 2016 were inflated due to a large portion of the community shopping to replace belongings lost in the August floods,” he said in an email.

The holiday shopping season kicks off this week with Black Friday and Rice said sales activity over the three-day weekend is projected to increase by 47 percent over 2016.

“There will be a lot more spent this year,” he said.

A healthy national economy is expected to boost sales across the country this holiday season. The National Retail Federation forecasts that sales for November and December should be 3.6 percent to 4 percent higher than last year, reaching as high as $682 billion.

“The combination of job creation, improved wages, tame inflation and an increase in net worth all provide the capacity and the confidence (for consumers) to spend,” Jack Kleinhenz, the federation’s chief economist, said in a statement.

Retailers are still split on the idea of opening on Thanksgiving. The Mall of Louisiana and Tanger Outlets in Gonzales will open at 6 p.m. Thursday. Major retailers such as Walmart, Target and Toys R Us also will be open that evening.

But the Acadiana Mall in Lafayette, Costco, Dillard’s and Babies R Us will remain closed on Thanksgiving.

Stores have different philosophies about opening on Thanksgiving, Rice said. Some want to take a stand and show the public that they’re looking out for their workers. Others want to get attention in the cluttered marketplace by either staying open or remaining closed.

“Some places are even starting their Black Friday sales in late October,” he said. “That way there’s no need to flock to the store website.”

While much of the focus on Black Friday is on the doorbuster sales that draw out thousands of shoppers to big-box stores before sunrise, it is also a huge day for small, independent retailers, according to data provided by the San Francisco-based firm Womply. According to an analysis of sales transactions at 1,150 Louisiana retailers, revenue at small businesses on that date in 2016 was 170 percent of the normal daily revenue. The second biggest day was Dec. 23, when revenues hit 160 percent of the normal total.

“People are trained to get out of the house and spend money on shopping on those days, and small retailers benefit as well,” said Brad Plothow, a spokesman for Womply. “It’s a huge lift for local retailers that spills over the weekend.”

Black Friday is a far bigger day for independent businesses than Small Business Saturday, the event held the day after Black Friday that American Express created to help small companies. Sales on that day were 123 percent of the typical day, Plothow said.

Online sales are expected to break the $100 billion mark over the holiday season, according to the research firm Adobe Analytics. E-commerce is expected to post a 13.8 percent gain over 2016 and is forecast to hit $107.4 billion.

Retailers are split, with about 60 percent focusing more on online sales this year, and 40 percent focusing more on brick and mortar stores, Rice said. “But a lot of retailers use a combination of both,” he said. “They offer services where you can order online and pick up at the store.”

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