Holiday Sales Update #1 - The Outlook Is Bright (And Promotional)


Last week proved to be an interesting week. Even with the mid-terms, we saw a huge push into the holiday season and with the exception of a few clients in very niche categories, most of you are reporting that November is off to a good start and exceeding last year. Our omni-channel retailers are reporting strong sales, fueled by early (and heavy) discounting, and our emerging brand clients continue to see double-digit growth with less promotional activity. Now we are nine days and counting to Black Friday.

Here are a few of the things that stood out to us last week in the news:

  • Forecasts are strong- The NRF predicts an increase of 4.3 and 4.8 percent in holiday retail sales. Deloitte projects an increase of 5.0 and 5.6 percent over last year and could exceed $1.1 trillion.

  • Spending is up- Consumers said they would spend an average of $1,007, up 4.1 percent from last year’s $967. (source: Prosper Insights & Analytics)

  • Mobile is still soaring- 67% of e-commerce shoppers will make purchases on their phones this holiday season, up from 59% last year. (source: Deloitte)

  • Ecommerce growth still high- Adobe Analytics predicted online growth is expected to outpace that of storefront spending, 14.8% to 2.7%.

  • What’s old is new again- Amazon mails a toy catalog and Facebook launches retail pop-up stores.

  • Noteworthy- Bigger than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined, China’s “Singles’ Day” has become the world’s largest e-commerce holiday (Sunday, November 11 – people celebrate their pride in being single). (source: Gartner L2)


Black Friday deals started early and Wallethub scanned more than 7K offers. The overall average discount for Black Friday is 37%. The average discount for apparel and accessories is 47%, with 42% for home and 36% for toys. Here are a few of the average discounts for large retailers. As always, keep in mind the competition for your customer’s dollars.

  • Kohls- 60.8%

  • Macys- 48.7%

  • Target- 34.8%

  • Amazon- 29.3%

  • Costco- 25.1%


Last week, I had a record 104 direct mail pieces and catalogs in my mailbox, compared with just over 80 last year (even with the election). Apparel continues to dominate the mail box (54 pieces), with home furnishings in second place (21, mostly focused on entertaining and seasonal décor), and noticeably lower quantities for the gift and children’s markets (11 and 10). Here are a few of the things that stood out to me:

  • A call out to Naked Cashmere for the beautiful, dramatic catalog.

  • There was a hip new, children’s apparel catalog by Appaman, as well as a first-time catalog for French fashion brand Ba&sh. (And in case you missed our email last week, we have officially launched more than 100 brands and retailers into the mail successfully!) 

  • There was also a non-promotional group in the mail, including: Hearthsong, At West End, Lovepop, Rejuvenation, Wrap, Gorsuch, Carve Designs, Ba&sh, Athelta, Fold, Poetry, JMclaughlin, Roark, and Linksoul. 

  • Lastly, if anything the post office is running ahead of schedule, not behind, but we’ll keep you posted.


Here are a few of the major creative trends that our Creative Services team is tracking so far. More to come.

1. Holiday-lite covers so far. While we've received lots of DM in the past two weeks, the majority of the pieces do not feature overtly holiday visuals or messaging – yet.

2. Simplicity rules. One image + the brand logo is the cover formula for many upscale brands now, and has been for months as we begin to see a new generation of catalog creative. No CTA, no URL, no free shipping/returns statement, no offer. These things are important to call out inside, if not on the covers.

3. Hard-working real estate. Athleta introduced their men’s brand, Hill City, on their November catalog cover with a small but obvious silver text box. Between pages 12/13 & 84/85, a 10-page, 6x8 insert tells the brand story, sells product, drives to the app, presents an offer + invites readers to sign up for the wear tester program. 

4. Creating anticipation… or solve for late delivery? On the two inside back cover spreads (sizzling hot spots!), White House Black Market features dress-up looks with headlines stating that the looks would be available on November 19th. The catalog was in-home the last week of October. Interestingly, the offer expires November 14.