Levin Management Poll: Retailers See Holiday Spending As Happy And Bright

North Plainfield-based commercial real estate services company Levin Management Corp. said new findings released this week show that industry projections for consumer spending during the holidays appear strong, and that there has been strong performance so far since the start of the year, appearing offsetting retailers’ concerns about how COVID-19, supply chain and labor challenges may impact performance during this critical season.

Levin’s annual Pre-Holiday Retail Sentiment Survey, which surveys store managers in its rental and management portfolio of 120 properties and 16 million square feet, found that nearly 80% of attendees in the survey said cumulative sales for the year met or exceeded expectations. , with more than three-quarters reporting the same for in-store traffic. About 72% are optimistic about what the holiday season will bring, although nearly 20% said they were not sure how their stores would perform.

Matthew Harding. (Levin Management Corp.)

“There’s no question that people shop – as consumers we’ve all seen the evidence firsthand in busy malls,” said Matthew Harding, CEO of LMC. “Tenants are also renting spaces at a healthy pace. As such, this level of optimism for the holidays is logical and encouraging. “

Still, Harding said that, given the level of uncertainty 2021 has brought on various fronts, it’s understandable that a noticeable number of LMC survey participants aren’t sure what to expect. Respondents ranked the factors that they believe will influence seasonal sales performance. Security concerns related to COVID-19 dominated the field, followed by stock availability and labor supply.

At the bottom of the list? Concerns about the growth of electronic commerce.

“Retailers certainly face a number of well-documented barriers, but the position of the impact of e-commerce among them is worth noting,” said Harding. “Just a few years ago, this topic was leading the conversation. Today we are witnessing a real balance, as physical and online operations feed off of each other with an integrated approach evidenced by the ship-from-store and click-and-collect collaboration.

Overall, studies carried out by major industry players, such as ICSC, the National Retail Federation and Deloitte – forecast year-over-year holiday sales increases of between 7% and 10.5% for 2021.

In this context, nearly 56% of LMC survey participants indicated that they were looking to recruit seasonal staff. This percentage far exceeds the 10-year moving average of the pre-vacation survey of 34.5%. Given the widely discussed retail labor shortage (the US Bureau of Labor Statistics most recently counted 1.32 million retail jobs at the end of August), it’s no surprise that LMC tenants are struggling to fill seasonal positions.

In fact, about 72% of survey respondents said it is more difficult to find qualified candidates than in the past. Almost half (48.6%) of those who hire have increased their seasonal hourly wages compared to previous years. In addition, many LMC tenants offer incentives beyond hourly wages to attract workers – referral, performance and end of season bonuses; opportunities for transitioning to permanent full-time staff; free meals during work shifts; flexible compensation options.

When asked when they expected holiday sales to peak, over 25% of LMC survey respondents selected “Pre-Thanksgiving / Black Friday,” reflecting a continued trend towards holiday sales. earlier purchase.

“We expect the holiday promotions to start earlier in the fall,” noted Melissa Sievwright, vice president of marketing for LMC. “This year, retailers – and consumers – are also grappling with widespread supply chain issues, which may prompt buyers to start even earlier due to out-of-stock issues.”

Competition for holiday sales and traffic is forcing traditional retailers to work hard to gain and retain customers. A quarter of LMC pre-holiday survey participants said they were trying something new this year to improve their store’s seasonal shopping experience, and nearly 95% said they maintained or increased specific marketing. on vacation this year.

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