Holiday Sales Update #2 - The Competition is Fierce

We hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving holiday and that your week is off to a great start. As we face endless amounts of emails, a record volume of mail, promotions up to 70% off, and the rising success of private label brands by companies like Amazon and Target, one thing is very clear this year - the competition is fierce.


We continue to hear from most of you that sales are very strong. This includes large, mature omni channel retailers as well as small, emerging brands and even long-standing catalogers. It spans from apparel to home décor. The few exceptions were not in any particular category, price point, or life stage. Here are the stats from the industry news that stood out to us. In short order: big increases in online sales and consumer spending, stores stay flat, mobile surges as expected, and Amazon takes 40% of holiday sales.

  • Thanksgiving Day retail sales were up 28% at $3.7B (source: Adobe Analytics).

  • $6.22B was spent online by the end of Black Friday, an increase of 23.6% year over year. (source: Adobe Analytics)

  • Traffic to physical stores Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday showed a year-over-year decline of 1 percent. (source: ShopperTrak)

  • The Friday after Thanksgiving this year was also the first day to exceed $2 billion in sales stemming from smartphones. 33.5 percent of e-commerce sales Friday came from mobile devices, compared with 29.1 percent in 2017. (source: Adobe Analytics).

  • “Click-and-collect” orders up 73 percent from Thursday to Friday. Target, Kohl’s and Walmart are just a few companies that have been pushing buy online, pick up in stores. (source: Adobe Analytics)

  • AOVs were up 8.5% to reach $146 due to more big ticket items like appliances, furniture, and electronics. (source: Adobe Analytics).

  • Cyber Monday grew 19.3% over LY, a new record for online sales. (source: Adobe Analytics) Amazon reported this morning that yesterday was their biggest sales day in the history of the company. (source: Retail Dive)

  • Amazon will take 40% of all holiday online sales. Between the beginning of 2017 and this April, Amazon added 66 of its own labels, which was six times the labels it launched in the two-year period before that. (source: Gartner L2) 

  • Since 2016, Target has launched 20 private label brands in apparel, home decor, electronics and personal care, some brands quickly exceeding $1-$2B in sales. (source: Gartner L2)


Between Wednesday morning and Sunday evening, I received a staggering 1,117 emails from retailers where I’d opted in. I opened about 20. In many cases, I got as many as four to seven emails a day from big major retailers (you know who you are). It’s important to remember how many emails your customer is getting every day, especially if you are relying on email for reactivation.

Last year, we saw a record volume of mail with November week 3 as peak week, with 101 pieces in my mailbox, and another 84 pieces in week 4. The numbers were very similar this year but peak week topped out at 104. Apparel continues to dominate with so many new brands in the mail targeting the affluent 30-50 year old. We’d like to make a special call-out to some of the new brands in the mail in the last few weeks, including: Brooklinen, Outerknown, Maggie Louise Confections, Kiwico, Tamara Mellon, and St. Frank. As we look at all the different form factors in the mail, we continue to see a broader range of formats than ever before as well as continued used of quick release cards with special offers.

We have also noticed a significant increase in marketing dollars shifted to more traditional channels like TV and outdoor as clients expand their marketing mix. Purpose driven marketing also continues to take flight with brands like Everlane and Tom’s focused on give-back messages rather than discounts over the long promotional weekend. Tom’s is focused on ending gun violence while Everlane is focused on cleaning up plastic in the ocean. Kudos to all the brands out there fighting to make a difference.


Here are some of the highlights that stood out to our Creative Services team in the last few weeks.

1. Black Friday shout-out in DM. Two brands, Naked Cashmere and Talbots, took space in their catalogs to promote Black Friday offers. Naked Cashmere promoted a limited edition collection on the inside back cover spread. Talbots added a 4-page, 5x6 insert to their catalog and promoted in-store-only savings and gift-with-purchase, and preview day savings for credit card holders.

2. Decking the covers in non-traditional colors. Every year, several holiday catalog covers stand out because they do not incorporate red, green, white or light blue. Striking examples seen thus far in holiday 2018: Johnny Was featuring a model against a warm yellow door, Cuyana with products and the background in skin-tone neutrals; Society6 with a full-bleed yellow background; Maggie Louise Confections with candies in a full spectrum of colors; and Shutterfly with a bold orange wrap. To note regarding Shutterfly: a highly recognizable orange cover wrap has been a holiday tradition for the brand since 2011.

3. Arresting graphic covers: Tamara Mellon with the stiletto heel on a woman’s red pump punched through the cover of a “Rule Book.”  Merrell with a woman precariously perched on the top of a chute of ice. This image and others inside show Merrell in a much more adventurous manner than previous catalogs. 

4. Nice little format: James Avery 7x10, 22-page catalog with a full gatefold off the front cover (for a total of 24 pages.) Gatefolds signify “special.”

5. Heartwarming soft sell. Faherty featured two spreads of families - 15 images total - and short quips about their holiday traditions. It was obvious that all the family members wore Faherty styles but none of the styles were named or sold on the spreads.  

6. Still lots of gift messaging: PB Teen “Ready Set Gift,” Orvis cover “Give Orvis,”  Eastern Mtn Sports “Gift the Great Outdoors.” Not to mention dedicated gift guides from brands like Vineyard Vines and The White Company.


As always, we hope this is helpful, and we’d love to hear from you.

We hope you have a great week,

Polly & Your Friends at Belardi Wong