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Local Expert Predicts Ho-Hum Holiday for Retailers

A local marketing professor thinks national estimates for holiday sales are a bit inflated.  Duquesne University’s Audrey Guskey said while the National Retail Federation is looking for 4.1 percent growth over last year’s holiday sales, she is expecting a more modest 3.5 percent.

“With the economy being very tough we are going to see shoppers holding back a little bit and not spending as much,” said Guskey.  “So it will be a ho-hum holiday season.”

Some retailers made pre-Black Friday headlines by announcing they would begin their traditional sales Thursday evening.

“They have been pushing the Christmas season well before Halloween this year… What we call Christmas creep.  What they have found is that the sooner shoppers start shopping the more they will spend,” said Guskey.  “I don’t think that is going to happen.”

Guskey said shoppers are getting smarter all the time and are getting better at finding bargains.  She said smart phones with aps that find the best price on an item are helping in that effort.    

Some of those shoppers might find a better price online.  Guskey believes sales will grow a bit faster online compared to traditional retailers.  “I’m thinking a pretty hefty 8 or 9 or 10 percent increase for all the cyber shopping.”  In recent years online growth has hit nearly 20 percent.

Guskey said shoppers are getting ever-more comfortable shopping online and the retailers continue to offer better return policies, free shipping and big sales.

The marketing professor did not make any predictions for small retailers this year but said she supports those promoting “Small Business Saturday,” a day when shoppers are asked to spend their money with locally owned businesses rather than national chains.