Raleigh's quest to get people offline, into stores for holiday shopping | Crain's Raleigh Durham

Raleigh's quest to get people offline, into stores for holiday shopping

A Small Business Saturday event will take place in downtown Raleigh on Nov. 25.

The 2017 holiday shopping season is shaping up to revolve around technology – and not just as a gift idea, but also in terms of how people are going to do their shopping.

For the first time ever, smartphones are expected to lead the way for online holiday shopping as more consumers will use their smartphones than any other device in their quest for the perfect holiday gift. In fact, 61 percent of people who shop online will do so from their smartphone, according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).

The trade organization recently released research that also shows Cyber Monday sales this year, at 51 percent, are expected to top Black Friday sales, at 38 percent. And for the greater holiday shopping season, which spans from October through December, tech spending is expected to top $96 billion, according to the CTA’s 24th Annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns Study.

Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for the CTA, described this trend as “a seismic shift in when and how American adults are shopping for holiday gifts.”

"Not only will the use of smartphones eclipse laptops and desktops for online holiday shopping for the first time, but this year also marks the introduction of what we consider to be a new sales channel,” said Koenig, referencing voice-activated speakers, which one in five U.S. adults said they plan to use to shop this holiday season.

Here in Raleigh, the nonprofit Downtown Raleigh Alliance (DRA) hopes to get people offline and into stores for Small Business Saturday on Nov. 25 by making an event of it. Local retailers’ hours and promotions can be found on the Shop Downtown website. The DRA will have a welcome station from 9 a.m. to noon in the M&F Bank parking lot, where shoppers can pick up totes and enter for raffle prizes.

The group also curated a gift guide for those who want to keep it local while holiday shopping.

“Our retailers are very connected to the community,” said Bob Hagh, DRA's public engagement and communications director. “They put on events and provide great deals during the holiday season. Some are even having special holiday hours throughout the next couple of weeks.”

Small Business Saturday was launched in 2010 by American Express as a way to get shoppers back into their communities for holiday shopping.

“Downtown Raleigh is a great place to shop,” Hagh said. “We have amazing apparel and accessory stores, beautiful home furnishing options, wine and spirits, and more. More than 90 percent of downtown retail shops are independently owned and shopping local is a great way to support the community. The holiday season offers patrons a unique opportunity to visit a wide variety of independent and eclectic shops to complete their shopping list, while enjoying the great restaurants and attractions downtown Raleigh has to offer.”

Another option for those who want to keep their holiday shopping local is to visit Raleigh’s Christmas Carousel, which is slated for Nov. 24-26 at the N.C. State Fairgrounds. The event, in its 30th year, features more than 250 exhibitors and attracts more than 20,000 people each year.

Lesley Rohrbaugh, a senior manager of market research at the CTA, highlighted additional ways retailers are luring consumers offline and into their brick-and-mortar stores. One strategy to get people into stores, Rohrbaugh explained, is by starting deals earlier in the season.

“It’s no longer just Black Friday,” Rohrbaugh said. “It’s ‘Black November.’ They’re using that term as a marketing message. We’re also seeing a lot of stores that are having deals that are only available in store. You can’t get them online. One of the other things that we’re seeing is there’s going to be a lot of focus on targeted ads.”

While more people will shop for technology online, up 2 percentage points from last year, more people will also shop in physical stores, which is expected to climb by 5 percentage points.

“We’re calling the theme of this season ‘the rise of the omni shopper,’” Rohrbaugh said. “People have more access to deals through more channels all of the time. They’re receiving messages through email in their inbox every morning. They’re seeing ads everywhere. That’s the overarching theme of why both are up.”

November 16, 2017 - 9:33am