By RILA President Sandy Kennedy
The holiday shopping season is about to kick off in earnest and somehow lost in the coverage is the optimism that sets this holiday season apart from recent years. Over the past four years the weak economy was the story. Rising unemployment, frozen credit markets and the housing crisis made the holiday season very difficult for millions of Americans and decidedly less cheery for the retail industry. While the economy remains soft today, as Thanksgiving approaches all signs point to consumers increasingly eager to open their wallets and spend more this season than they have in several years.
No industry is more in tune with the challenges that today’s consumers face than the retail industry. Every day retailers welcome millions of Americans into their stores. Retailers often see broad changes in demand and behavior before anyone else. Therefore, retailers are conditioned to be flexible and ready to adapt to these changes by adjusting prices, changing product assortments, tailoring payment options, and yes, changing store hours.
The news that some retailers intend to launch their holiday promotions a bit early this year has garnered a great deal of attention, obscuring the underlying good news that consumers are back. In fact, the debate is no longer if consumers will spend, it is when do they plan to get started? The answer for some consumers is Thanksgiving night. Consequently, some retailers plan to open early to accommodate them. There’s no complex science about it, the rationale is simple; retailers cater to customers who want to buy their goods. If the demand is there, as it appears to be this year, retailers want to be sure their doors are open and their shelves are stocked. If they don’t their competitors surely will.
So as we prepare for Thanksgiving, let’s remember just how far we have come, because that is something for which we can all be thankful.