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Shopping center retailers ready for strong 2017 holiday season

Retailers in Levin Management Corporation’s (LMC’s) 100-property, 14-million-square-foot shopping center portfolio are anticipating a strong holiday season following what has been a generally positive year to date.

The commercial real estate services firm just released the results of its annual Pre-Holiday Retail Sentiment Survey, which also reflects an ongoing commitment by bricks-and-mortar retail to capitalize on today’s digital world.

For the majority of LMC survey participants, year-to-date sales and shopper traffic have been similar to or better than last year at this time.

Notably, the percentage reporting same-or-higher sales (62.4 percent) through late October jumped nearly six percent from the findings in LMC’s mid-year 2017 survey and is 2.8 percent higher than the trailing five-year average in LMC’s pre-holiday surveys.

“From a ground-level perspective, 2017 has been a positive year for retailers within the LMC portfolio, and the survey findings support our observations,” noted Matthew K. Harding, president.

“Busy shopping center parking lots and more than two dozen new store openings testify that the economy is strengthening, and consumer confidence is rising.

“More than three-quarters – 76.9 percent – of our survey participants expect sales to be the same or better than last year’s holiday shopping season and 41.7 percent plan to add seasonal staff.”

The National Retail Federation anticipates 2017 holiday retail sales to increase between 3.6 and 4.0 percent, a forecast that would meet or exceed last year’s growth of 3.6 percent. The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) predict a 3.8 percent year-over-year growth in retail holiday sales, with 46.0 percent of shoppers indicating they will spend more this holiday season. Further, the ICSC study shows 91.0 percent plan to shop at bricks-and-mortar stores.

Nearly half (48.7 percent) of LMC survey respondents expect their holiday sales to peak before and during the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend.

“Our retailers anticipate consumers will shop early again this year,” Harding said. “Interestingly, this is the first time in five years there are four pre-Christmas Saturdays in December, which expands the season and provides an opportunity for additional sales. We look forward to seeing if this changes the dynamics.ˮ

Analytics firm Shoppertrak expects Saturday, Dec. 23, to be the second-busiest shopping day, after Black Friday.

The LMC Pre-Holiday Survey results emphasize retailers’ efforts to engage customers and enhance their in-store experiences during the 2017 holiday season. Technology-centered marketing is playing a key role as bricks-and-mortar stores work to compete in an increasingly digital world.

Email remains the favorite avenue for reaching customers outside the store, used by 80.2 percent of survey respondents who employ tech-marketing tools, with social media/social marketing coming in second at 73.7 percent.

Other notable categories include text messaging (32.4 percent), and banner or other internet advertising (29.8 percent).

ICSC’s Holiday Shopping Intentions Survey found 85 percent of shoppers will research products online before making in-store purchases, and nine of 10 will visit retailer websites or apps to get product information.

LMC retailers are providing a variety of tech-centered incentives this holiday seasoN.
Melissa Sievwright, LMC vice president of marketing that among the LMC survey respondents who are employing tech-centered marketing tools, 75.8 percent offer digital coupons, discounts and/or loyalty points; 37.2 percent provide in-store, online ordering (with free shipping) for out-of-stock items; and 34.6 percent have an option to pre-order items online for in-store pick up.

Other popular conveniences offered include free Wi-Fi (29.0 percent) and electronic receipts (28.6 percent).

The LMC survey shows nearly one-third (32.7 percent) of respondents plan to try something new this year to enhance their customers’ in-store holiday shopping experiences. And while some tie to tech-centered marketing, many others take advantage of aspects of the physical store environment that cannot be duplicated online.

“Our tenants recognize that consumers want more out of the shopping experience than simply purchasing gifts,” Sievwright said. “In addition to traditional sales and specials, we are seeing everything from in-store fashion shows, performances and demos, to CPR classes and fundraisers for local charities. The survey also revealed a strong emphasis on enhanced customer service – the cornerstone of successful retail.”

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