It might seem like the US is in something of a retail slump at the moment, at least when it comes to legacy brands and traditional brick-and-mortar shops. They are dealing with sales declines and even closing their doors in the face of competition from more nimble e-commerce players.
It’s everywhere you look, from Sears to Lowe’s to Barnes and Noble. The truth of the matter, though, is that the retail sector might seem to be having tons of problems lately, but consumers aren’t. Indeed, a new report out from market research firm eMarketer estimates that this Christmas season, for the first time ever, US retail sales will top $1 trillion.
That’s thanks in part to — big surprise — e-commerce growth. The research firm estimates that online retail sales this year will rise almost 17 percent over 2017 to $123.73 billion. Also, e-commerce will grow its share of the total retail sales pie to 12.3 percent this year.
Amazon is certainly doing its part to help that trend along. On Monday, the e-commerce giant announced an unprecedented benefit it’s offering shoppers this holiday season — removing the minimum purchase requirement needed to qualify for free shipping, meaning all customers will qualify for that benefit for a limited time.
It’s not just online shopping that will dominate this year’s Christmas season though. Surprisingly, the eMarketer figures show that in-store sales are actually going to see a 4.4 percent pickup this year, rising to $878.38 billion. The report goes so far as to say that brick-and-mortar retail will be a “bright spot” for the industry during this Christmas season.
“While e-commerce will continue to see strong double-digit gains, brick-and-mortar retail should be a particular bright spot this holiday season,” eMarketer principal analyst Andrew Lipsman said in a statement Tuesday. “Not every brick-and-mortar retailer is thriving, and several have shut their doors this year, but others are really capitalizing on the strong consumer economy. Retailers are luring in shoppers with remodeled stores, streamlined checkout and options to buy online, pick up in-store.”
Indeed, traditional retailers like Target and Walmart are trying to do more to bridge the online and offline worlds, offering perks and benefits like arranging pickups for online purchases. eMarketer forecasting analyst Cindy Liu said this kind of thing is going to keep ramping up, with “more promotions and perks like free and fast shipping, as retailers compete against Amazon.”