Experts predict ho-ho holidays ahead

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Macy's in New York
Macy's in New York Credit: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

Retailers are dreaming of a green Christmas.

Last week, Kohl's, Target and Macy's debuted campaigns to attract consumer dollars during their biggest sales season of the year. Even Sears, which filed for bankruptcy last month, is hoping to woo spenders with holiday-themed promotions.

There's reason for optimism: The National Retail Federation predicts that sales in November and December will increase as much as 4.8 percent, to a possible $720.9 billion, over the same period last year. That's well above the 3.9 percent annual average rise during the last five years.

Experts predict ad expenditures in the retail category may also be up over last year, following the winter 2017 holiday season's 10 percent year-over-year rise reported by Kantar Media. Already, both Target and Kohl's have said their marketing budgets will exceed last year's by a percentage in the mid-single digits.

Deals and messaging are also arriving earlier than ever, as brands eschew one-day promotions around Black Friday and Cyber Monday for sales that run throughout November. Kohl's is running online deals from the Saturday after Thanksgiving until the following Wednesday, for example, while some retailers like Lowe's and Best Buy began holiday-themed advertising in October.

Unlike previous years, when retailers pulled back on TV, marketers are going full steam ahead into broadcast messaging this year. Target is running 20 English-language and 18 Spanish-language spots. Last year, the chain had 10 spots around a single holiday narrative.

Unlike the last three years, Target's series of holiday spots stand on their own without an overarching storyline, a strategy that gives the Minneapolis-based retailer more flexibility, says Rick Gomez, executive VP and chief marketing officer.

Gary Getto, president of ad impact measurement firm ABX, says the new strategy is a smart one, as viewers often only see bits and pieces of a campaign storyline in today's crowded media landscape.

"Too often, we make the mistake as advertisers to make people happy and entertain them, but ... if it doesn't bring people in and get them to buy, you've wasted your money," says Getto.

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