Holiday Season Or Holidaze?

The holiday season has crept up on me again! I don’t know where the time goes, but I noticed that is was just recently Halloween and now the holiday season, or “holidaze” as I refer to it, is in full swing once again…Today is Monday, November 16, 2015 and already Thanksgiving is right around the corner! According to my calendar, in a scant 10 days it will be Thursday November 26, Thanksgiving Day! For some reason, and I don’t know if it is just me or if you also have the same problem, the whole holiday season just seems to suddenly ARRIVE without warning, and all of a sudden I am caught up in the mix, like it or not!

I cannot deny the excitement in the air, the rush of anticipation, the crowded downtown streets when I drive down there, and it is a pleasant, familiar feeling…Personally Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidaze, and a very close second only to Christmas itself….What’s not to like about Thanksgiving?

There is plenty of food to eat, ham or the traditional turkey with all the trimmings, stuffing and gravy and sweet potatoes and green beans and mashed potatoes and biscuits, Yummers! And both college and pro NFL football games on TV all day long, plus if you are blessed enough to have your close family living nearby, a time to gather, celebrate, share and reminisce, to renew and reinforce good old fashioned family values and traditions……Mm mm….. The 3 F’s: Food, Family and Football

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All the stores are already hustling and bustling with shoppers and sales, and advertisers are off the hook with their promotional deals, sales and discounts…Black Friday, as it is called, is the day after Thanksgiving and marks the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season…People line up overnight to be the first in line when the stores open, and the stores have been opening earlier and earlier, usually at the stroke of midnight…Some people even eat their Thanksgiving dinners and head straight to the mall to get in line for the eagerly anticipated sales!

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As I understand it, and I am just a single older man living alone with no immediate family to explain these arcane shopping details and sales, there is even a Cyber Monday, which comes after the regular Black Friday, and it is supposed to be the day all the internet sales are unveiled for your shopping on line….Actually, there seems to be a marked trend in internet shopping in the last few years, and the lines of when it starts and does it ever stop are getting a little blurry from my perspective…

According to my Google sources, particularly an article in the Washington Post about this relatively new phenomenon, says : “One can reminisce about the days when department stores and mega-malls were among the main places for Americans to meet, socialize and, of course, shop. Spending an afternoon at the big downtown department stores used to be a family treat during the holiday shopping season. The experience eventually evolved more into trips to the mall – which were typically anchored by a major department store or two.

Cyber Monday sales this year (this data is from 2014) were up 8.7 percent compared with 2013, led by a sharp increase in mobile transactions according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark. Sales over mobile devices jumped 29 percent . That’s a sharp contrast with the mostly bad news for brick-and-mortar stores, which saw about 6 million fewer shoppers over the Thanksgiving weekend, with overall spending down about 11 percent , according to the National Retail Federation.

That’s all changed. We have certainly witnessed in recent years a pronounced uptick in terms of consumers doing their shopping online and through various mobile devices and applications. That’s the trend, but does it really mean people will shop exclusively on these devices in the not-too-distant future? Are we in the final days of a major retail shopping shakeup that will eventually make department and other physical stores a thing of the past?

There will always be a certain segment of the population who will frequent brick-and-mortar stores for the opportunity to “touch and feel” the merchandise. This is an important aspect for some age groups such as baby boomers and Generation X. On the other hand, the millennials and other younger generations tend to buy their clothes and gadgets online.

A desire for “instant gratification” or “instant ownership” is still key with some buyers – including youths – who appreciate the ability to touch, feel and buy an item all in the same moment, currently only possible at a physical store. Amazon’s new one-hour delivery service, however, may begin to eat away at this.

On the other hand, many people prefer to snag the best deal after surveying a large number of products, something difficult to do in stores, especially when there are large crowds, and don’t mind waiting for their purchase to show up days later in the mail. That jives with the sense that we’re a more “deal-oriented” society today.

So then what do brick-and-mortar stores need to do to survive and even thrive – and lure those mystifying millennials? Traditional brick-and-mortar stores may be struggling due to the meteoric rise of online shopping, but it doesn’t mean they’re losing out on those sales – they’re just moving to their Web site. While some argue that eventually it’ll all be online, (many people) contend that physical stores will be around for some time to come – if and only if they are successful at reinventing themselves more in the mold of Apple as experience stores.

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Some stores have excelled at doing this and creating an “in-store experience” that’s about more than trying to find a T-shirt or new computer, such as Nordstrom and Apple. Others will have to adopt similar techniques to compete. Clothing retailer JC Penney, for example, is in the midst of trying to reinvent its shopping experience to make it more than just a transaction with a cashier.

Value-added transactions
Retailers need to add value to the transaction to make it worth the trip away from the convenience of the computer. The entire in-store experience must be enriched. Necessary elements include:

  • Knowledgeable, professional and courteous employees who will do everything to ensure customer satisfaction (Nordstrom and Apple do this well)
  • Conduct continuous customer research to always better understand what prospective consumers will be searching for
  • A pleasant store environment and ambiance that is soothing and inviting to the customer’s senses
  • Warranties and guarantees that leave no doubt in the consumer’s mind that this is the place to do business
  • Irresistible and creative in-store displays that attract the consumer
  • An integrated e-commerce, online marketing approach within the storefront architecture so that all shoppers will get the “best of all worlds.”

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Black Friday Shoppers Chase Deals At Wal-Mart, Best Buy

So I guess it’s still pick your poison, but personally I enjoy on line shopping more and love being able to avoid the crush of people and the jam packed parking lots at the malls and especially here in downtown San Francisco…For the major stuff, like for my daughter and grand-daughter, I let them pick out what they want, put it in “the cart” and just pay for it, especially now that they are living thousands of miles from me…

But conversely, I DO also still like to pick out certain items at stores, and go through the whole traditional routine of wrapping them, packing them and making that trip to the post office to mail them off to my family members back in the Mid West…So I guess I am of two minds here, but I think the convenience of online shopping will continue to grow for most people, because time is at such a premium in most people’s lives, and ordering on line is much quicker…

But like it or not, ready or not, the holidaze are once again upon us! I know that Thanksgiving, at least is a unique American experience, and I treasure it for that…Christmas and the holiday season have more of an international flavor, but sometimes the holidaze expectations overwhelm me, and I prefer to take them one at a time.. ..

And speaking of flavors, I can’t wait to taste that once a year turkey treat with all the trimmings, I LOVE Thanksgiving and I hope all of you also have a great Thanksgiving with family and friends as well!

For more information on retail stores vs on line shopping, see:https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/how-brick-and-m…The Washington Post

For more blogs by John Whye, see: http://www.johnwhye.com

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