Holiday shopping: The season starts slower than expected for small and midsized retailers

November 20, 2015 04:25 PM

Small and midsized retailers aren’t seeing as much business in the early part of the holiday shopping season as they have in the past.

Online shopping patterns are holding the line through November so far, says Bridge Mellichamp, director of data science for Stitch Labs, a vendor that helps retailers sell on online marketplaces. One surprise was a slight drop in sales and order volume during the second week of the month compared with the first, she tells Internet Retailer. Sales declined 1.5% and order volume fell 0.6% the week of Nov. 9-15, according to Stitch Labs’ data. “I would’ve expected it to be similar or up a bit,” Mellichamp says.

Typical order value for Stitch clients selling on was $20.00 the week of Nov. 9-15, down 16.5% from $23.95 the week before; on eBay Inc. was $17.75, down 9.3% from $19.56. Etsy Inc.’s typical order volume rose slightly to $24.26, up 1.1% from $24.00, Stitch data shows.

The Stitch Labs 2015 Holiday SMB E-commerce Trends report is based on aggregated data from more than 3,000 small and midsize retailers who are Stitch clients.

November online sales have been pretty steady so far, even with a dip in order volume among the retailers it tracked, as it appears consumers are waiting to buy on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Mellichamp says. “We’re looking forward to seeing what that data shows,” she says.

According to the National Retail Foundation’s Preliminary Thanksgiving Weekend Survey, an estimated 135.8 million shoppers (58.7%) definitely will or may shop on Thanksgiving and over Thanksgiving weekend, a slight dip from the 61.1% who planned to last year and more than the 55% of holiday shoppers who said they shopped online and in stores during the weekend in 2014. Last year’s Thanksgiving weekend survey found 133.7 million holiday shoppers were in stores and online over the holiday weekend.

A study from online marketplace eBay Inc. and global marketing firm TNS finds that the number of U.S. consumers who are waiting until December to start their Christmas shopping this year fell by 7% compared with last year. Respondents, particularly women, said they are starting their shopping in November, with 43% reporting the start of their shopping season this month, the report said.

About one in five consumers (22%) who plan to holiday shop had started as of mid-September, according to data from CivicScience, a polling and consumer insights research company. CivicScience surveyed 7,191 U.S. adults.

And what are consumers looking for?

For the week of Nov. 9-15, apparel and accessories comprised the largest share of e-commerce sales, at 32.9%, followed by home and furniture at 15.9% and consumer electronics at 11.2%, according to data from Stitch Labs. But the product category with the biggest jump increase was adult products, up 13.6% to a 7.5% share of retail industry sales from 6.6% the week before. That category contains e-cigarette vaporizers and fluid, and sexually explicit products, but most of Stitch Labs' clients fall on the e-cigarette side, a spokeswoman says.

In the first week of the month, Nov. 2-8, apparel and accessories accounted for 30.6% of sales, followed by home and furniture at 16.3% and consumer electronics at 12.6%. The biggest mover during that week was jewelry and watches, which has 7.2% of sales, a 108.9% increase from the week before, the report says. The sports, toys and hobbies category, however, remained unchanged both weeks with a 10.4% share.

At retailer Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc., No. 658 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Second 500 Guide, traffic to started to build Nov. 1, which is when the toy and gift merchant began selling its Merry Mission reindeer toy online, says Brian Sawyer, the retailer’s senior managing director, digital. “The kickoff of Merry Mission was supported with both TV and digital media campaigns, and we have since experienced a 60% traffic increase [over average],” he says. “Sales thus far have also been driven by our Merry Mission story with Glisten holding the No. 1 spot, which tells us that online guests are looking for seasonally-themed gifts at this point in the Christmas shopping season.”




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