Holiday Sales Update #3 - Not So Fast


After a mild fall, we are thrilled to report that results continue to be strong across categories and price points for the holiday season. There was a slow-down last week as expected after the long holiday weekend, but results are still trending up. This year we have the maximum number of days possible between Thanksgiving and Christmas- 34 days. With that in mind, when we look at the top 10 selling days of the season, we still have four peak days left. In fact, Super Saturday (the Saturday before Christmas) is second only in sales to Black Friday (source: Hitwise). Here are the industry news bits that stood out to us:

  • Ecommerce sales are up 16.8% between 11/1 and 12/6 to a record $80B. (source: Adobe)

  • Mobile sales are up almost 55% to LY with over 58% of visits coming from mobile devices. (source: Adobe)

  • Returns stat: The estimated value of all holiday merchandise that will be returned this year is $90B to $95B - with apparel hardest hit.

  • Consumer confidence is at an 18 year high and the forecast for the next six months remains high, according to The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Survey.

  • Paypal processed more than $1B in mobile payments on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. (source: TechCrunch)

  • Interestingly, Adobe reported that social media is only driving 1.5% of holiday revenue, with paid search in the #1 spot at 24.4% and email in the #2 spot at 20.3%.


Working with so many premium brands, we appreciate the effort to steer away from promotions, but it’s important to understand the level of offers in front of your customers. A few key facts:

  • 82% of shoppers say that free shipping is one of the most enticing offers, second only to price discounts. (source: Deloitte Digital)

  • 3 in 4 people believe discounts are a “very” or “extremely” important to making a purchase. (source: NRF)

  • One-fourth of consumers say 25% is the minimum discount they consider a “good sale.” Some 15% of people said items reduced by 30% or 40% is the minimum they expect, and 14% of shoppers said they wouldn’t get out of bed for a discount of less than 20%. (source: Marketwatch)

  • Amazon had the best prices during the five-day holiday shopping period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday- 14% less expensive than retailers carrying the same items. (source: Profitero)


Last year, I had 97 direct mail pieces in my mailbox the first week of December. This year, I had a staggering 128 pieces (up 32% from LY), making December week 1 the peak week for holiday. Fun fact: Of the 128 pieces, only 28 were not Belardi Wong clients. First, a special call-out to Olive & Cocoa and Backroads for their dramatic formats. Olive & Cocoa’s catalog had a 10.5x12 inch trim, and Backroads sent a beautiful over-sized calendar with aspirational travel photography- from their trips of course. The gift category, which has seemed lightly represented in the last few weeks, made a huge comeback with 46 catalogs clearly focused on gifting, whether it was more traditional brands like Pendleton, Boden, and Lakeshore Learning with gifts in a Christmas tree design on the front cover, or a new generation of gift guides (often in digest form) including OluKai, Marine Layer, Society6, and United by Blue. It was also great to see holiday cards to customers from brands like Arhaus, Chewy, Article, and Samuel Hubbard. About one-fifth of the pieces in my mailbox were also small formats.


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

  • Small format. Last week several small trim size catalogs arrived: UnTUCKit, OluKai, and Onward Reserve to name a few.  Nearly all took a gift guide approach to creative, and it couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. "Gifts Under $,” “Gifts for ____,” and “Fits in a Stocking,” type of merchandise stories help guide gifting decisions.

  • Brands going for gatefolds. Gatefolds signal “special” to shoppers. In the critical holiday shopping period, it’s no surprise that some retailers aim to capture attention with this tactic. James Avery used a gatefold off a front cover to show a new collection. Land’s End used a gatefold to promote gift boxes, gift cards, holiday hours and their guarantee. Merrell put a double gatefold in the center of their Winter 2018 catalog. Its content was editorial, not selling – a black and white photo montage of people and trails across America. 

  • First flip book in a long time. Sister brands Shutterfly and Tiny Prints combined their offerings into one flip book catalog that arrived last week. Shutterfly occupied the front cover through page 31. In the opposite orientation, Tiny Prints occupied the back cover and 10 back pages.

  • Promoting gift cards with a picture. While you may think all shoppers know gift cards are an option, a visual reminder brings the suggestion to the forefront. Gift card redemptions extend the holiday season beyond December 25th, so why not give them a little catalog real estate? Brands that did in catalogs arriving in the past week: Restoration Hardware, Athleta, Samuel Hubbard (a full page!), REI (a full page!).

  • Clever, on-brand copy: From REI of #OptOutside fame, a no-product white cover with bold type: "This Cover Would Have Been Amazing But Then It Started Dumping in the Mountains," alluding to getting up to the snow in lieu of shopping. More examples: "Least Re-Gifted Gifts," “Tent+Sleeping Bag+Pad+Permagrin,” “Cannot guarantee duration of grin.”  PS: The back cover was a strong selling page.

SAVE THE DATE: We have a stellar lineup in the works for our next client summit on April 3rd and 4th in Napa, and we hope we see you there! More to come.

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