President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, to be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of every November. If you just said “duh,” then maybe you don’t realize that from 1939 to 1941, President Roosevelt declared Thanksgiving as the third Thursday of November, hoping to raise revenue by adding a week to the holiday shopping season. Although Congress has since reverted Thanksgiving to its original date, shoppers this year might be inclined to side with Roosevelt, because the 2013 holiday shopping season is set to be the shortest on record. With just 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, six fewer than last year’s 32, consumers will undoubtedly be seeking easy and efficient ways to still get their shopping on.
According to a Wanderful Media survey, 91 percent of consumers wound up in a store because of something they saw online, with 77 percent researching a product via mobile while inside a store. This “omnichannel” shopper increases during the holiday frenzy – with online shopping during the holidays steadily quickly growing each year. A shorter shopping season has the potential to highlight the conveniences of online shopping even further – free or same-day holiday shipping rates for example, have been on the rise in recent years and eliminate the need for a trip to the store while still enjoying timely delivery.
Perhaps one of the largest places where the perks of online shopping have been made clear is Cyber Monday. The first Monday after Thanksgiving, this day follows in the footsteps of Black Friday, and offers an annual holy grail of sales and specials. Cyber Monday has been the strongest online purchasing day of the year since its inception in 2005. Cyber Monday 2012, according to the Adobe Digital Index, allowed the average retailer to sell four times more than its normal daily online sales, with the top-performing quartile selling more than six times their normal amounts. However, whereas Cyber Monday 2012 marked exactly four weeks until Christmas Eve, Cyber Monday 2013 is barely three weeks from the same point – meaning cyber-shoppers will be doing their utmost to take advantage of online offers as soon as possible this year.
But those shoppers may need to be on their game even before Cyber Monday and Black Friday. In recent years, advertising endeavors for the holiday season have started to overlap with back-to-school promotions. Thirty-five percent of consumers responded to those efforts and started shopping prior to November in 2011, with that number jumping to 43 percent in 2012.
With a short holiday season in 2013, businesses will certainly be looking to extend their holiday-season income for as long as possible, so another increase in pre-November shoppers this season wouldn’t come as a surprise.
The question will be whether businesses will be able to retain those shoppers until Christmas, a growing concern on the holiday-season spectrum. Numerous retailers had been hesitant to offer deep discounts during the 2012 season; with consumers deal-hunting to the max, businesses feared losing profits, either by cutting prices too low, or not cutting them low enough and sending customers to competitors.
This method led to serious drops in purchases, and the week before Christmas saw chains like JC Penney and Target lowering prices dramatically. Furthermore, last year only a few businesses (Target among them) offered to match competitors’ low online prices, as opposed to only matching in-store prices; it will be interesting to see if a short shopping season will propel businesses to be more competitive with online sales prices, both in the value and timing of their offers.
A truncated holiday shopping season means visions of sugarplums are already dancing in the heads of companies and consumers alike; and come Thanksgiving, they won’t be dancing for long. So on November 28, 2013, finish your pumpkin pie, break out your tablet, and let the online shopping games begin.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi