From the get-go, the 2013 holiday shopping season bore signs of the unpredictable.
For one thing, there was one less week to shop, thanks to Thanksgiving, the traditional start to the season, falling on the last week of November (and on the same day as Hanukkah). Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft were both releasing their first next-generation video game consoles in seven years, thereby guaranteeing out-of-stock signs at electronics retailers across the country. Best Buy and Target were also experimenting with new ways of filling online orders with merchandise on store shelves.
But things soon got even stranger. Just a few days before Christmas, Target confirmed a massive security breach in which thieves stole credit and debit card information from 40 million customers. In response, the Minneapolis-based retailer offered a 10 percent discount on all items the following weekend.
And then UPS and FedEx’s promises to deliver packages by Christmas turned out to be empty promises to some consumers.
So in the spirit of this recap, the Star Tribune offers its list of five holiday winners and losers.
We guarantee delivery by New Year’s Day.
The numbers are not in yet, but analysts expect strong sales from the world’s largest consumer electronics retailer. The company was aggressive from the start, matching prices and promotions with competitors like Wal-Mart and Amazon. Best Buy is also sure to benefit from the release of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles.
The retailers keep opening earlier on Thanksgiving, and shoppers have continued to show up. Best Buy and Wal-Mart led the way with 6 p.m. openings, barely enough time for consumers to digest turkey, let alone the stuffing.
Sony and Microsoft
The seven-year wait was apparently worth it. Microsoft and Sony have so far sold more than 4 million consoles around the world. Based on those figures, market research firm IDC predicts that retailers will sell 42 million consoles in 2014, a 17 percent gain from the previous years. And from 2015 to 2017, that number will hover between 42 million and 46 million consoles a year.
2013 will likely be remembered the year that smartphones and tablets fully morphed from pure research tools into pure buying devices. The Consumer Electronics Association estimates holiday sales through mobile devices totaled $8.4 billion, or 14.8 percent of total online sales, compared to $1 billion, or 3 percent of total online sales, in 2010.
Um, we’re not sure why, but blenders seemed to be a hot holiday gift, especially the high-end Vitamix models. The company expects to sell 1.4 million blenders in 2013, a goal likely met thanks to a big holiday push.
The discount giant was already forecasting tepid holiday sales. Then came the credit card thefts, which were reported and confirmed by (in order) a blogger, local and national media, the U.S. Secret Service, and finally Target. So instead of focusing on last-minute Christmas shoppers, the retailer scrambled to repair its reputation and make amends.
The day after Thanksgiving has traditionally marked the official start of holiday shopping. But retailers’ decision to open on Thanksgiving has come at Black Friday’s expense. Brick-and-mortar shopper traffic fell 11.4 percent and sales also declined 13.2 percent compared to Black Friday in 2012, according to ShopperTrak.
Beyoncé’s unexpected decision to distribute her self-titled album exclusively on iTunes one week before releasing the CD deprived retailers of sales and holiday buzz. As a result, Target said it would not sell the album.
UPS and FedEx
The two delivery giants picked the worst holiday not to deliver packages on time. No one knows how many packages failed to arrive at homes by Dec. 25, but it was enough for both companies to issue apologies and refunds.
Malls continued to slide into irrelevance as shoppers shifted toward the Internet or stand-alone retailers. During the last week before Christmas, in-store sales at malls and shopping centers fell 3.1 percent from the same week a year ago, according to Shopper Trak.