, , ,

8 Gifts For Which Retailers Should Be Grateful In 2023

WM Circle Logo

By: Jenn McMillen |

Posted on December 21, 2023

Yeah, the holidays are a grind, but retailers should take a moment to give thanks. These eight events could help make the holidays bigger, and welcome in a better 2024.

By Jenn McMillen, CLMP™ Founder and Chief Accelerant of Incendio 

Retailers might not be thankful for “50% off” signs, but as they barrel beyond Black Friday, they should be thankful for Turtles, toddlers and their own employees.

These three shopping influencers – and several others – have helped boost retail traffic in 2023. And they could continue to do so into the Black Friday weekend, when consumers are expected to spend $460 each, according to a Boston Consulting Group survey.

Here’s why retailers should be grateful for these events now, and how they can use them as guidelines for more effective consumer strategies in 2024.

Thankful Lessons From Taylor, Ye And Crumbling Cookies

Blockbuster movies, consumer privacy and fuel prices. These and other key trends, which follow, present opportunities to help retailers get what they want over the coming holidays, and into next year.

  1. Quick response technology. The big tech in 2023 isn’t AI, its QR, which stands for Quick Response (betcha didn’t know that). These codes have evolved into affordable everyday solutions, by enabling shoppers to order items that are out of stock or to quickly check out in the store (per Amazon). By mid-2023, the number of QR codes rose by 43% over the same period in 2022, according to a report by Beaconstac, a QR management platform. As a result, 94 million people scanned the codes on their smartphones in 2023, up from 89 million in 2022, Statista reports. Retailers can use these codes to manage inventory: In 2021, 45% of the 82 million U.S. consumers who scanned a QR code did so to access an offer. QR codes were written off as “dead tech” years ago. So ironic, no, that now they’re hot?
  2. Cookin’-hot Barbie and Mutant revivals. Holy Cha-Ching! In August, the news outlet Deadline reported that global sales of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles merchandise neared $1 billion, year-to-date, thanks to the release of the “Mutant Mayhem” movie. Barbie, too, sold a lot more than different versions of the doll. Sales of pink products in the cookware market increased by 27% ahead of the film’s release, Chain Store Age reported (perhaps due to the “Barbie-Inspired Kitchen Products” story in Food & Wine). Purchases of adult pink sneakers advanced by 15%. As for Barbie herself, sales of the Mattel toy line rose 16%, to $605 million.
  3. The pandemic baby boom ­– In 2021, the number of U.S. births climbed for the first time since 2014, to 3.66 million. That compared with 3.61 million in 2020 – a growth of 500,000. If 500,000 new mouths to feed, clothe and entertain doesn’t sound like much, consider this: BabyCenter estimates the cost of feeding a baby on solid foods runs from $98 to $230 per month, and food represents just 18% of the total cost of raising a child. Baby clothes and toys can add $50 more each, per month. Holiday displays might attract more attention if they include some baby merch.
  4. Taylor Swift’s tailored Swifties. Figures aren’t available on how much glitter sold since the Taylor Swift Eras Tour launched, but with an average of 72,000 concert-goers at each show, it might have been record breaking. The national tour is credited with selling a lot more than glitter, however – especially in cities that hosted concerts for multiple nights, such as Pittsburgh. Swift’s presence influenced a 7% increase in store traffic across tour cities, Retail Leader reported. These figures do not include her Eras/AMC concert movie, which generated more than $100 million by Oct. 4 (and lured many Swifites to shopping centers). Even her new BF, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, is experiencing the “Taylor Effect,” with his jersey sales up 400% and his podcast listeners at an all-time high.
  5. Milking data-responsible practices. Some leave cookies out for Santa. Google is leaving cookies out, period, and retailers should eat this up. In 2024, Google will initiate its plan to phase out the information files that track and share consumers’ online activities on the Chrome browser. The shift was to take place in 2023, so the delay has afforded retailers ample chance to show how privacy-friendly they can be before deadline. Similar practices can be extended to reward programs, by limiting the member data collected only to what is necessary to meet an expressed goal. Chances are far less information is needed than anticipated, which can save money.
  6. That Ye was not a brand partner. Celebrities can pump up sales, but a partnership gone bad can leave a retailer holding the bag. Such was the case when Adidas said “nay” to Ye in October 2022, after the rapper formerly known as Kanye West made anti-Semitic remarks in public. Adidas was stuck with a lot of unsold Yeezy-branded merchandise, and in March posted a fourth-quarter loss of $540 million, NPR reports. In light of this fallout, retailers should follow the lead of Cracker Barrel and Dolly Parton, and test partnerships until they are proven.
  7. Putting the brakes on fuel prices. Retailers absorb the cost of fuel not only for online deliveries, but also for its effect on discretionary shopping, which it reduced in 2022, per CNN. Thankfully, the price of gas has dipped in 2023. The national average for a gallon, year-to-date, was $3.59 as of mid-November. That’s about 40 cents less per gallon than in 2022. When an e-commerce brand spends the equivalent of 10% to 15% of its total sales to cover home delivery expenses, as The Wall Street Journal reports, every dime per gallon affects profit.
  8. The people working on Black Friday. At the beginning of 2023, we reported that more than half of all consumers cited friendly and knowledgeable staff as the most important factor in creating a good in-store experience. That sentiment has not changed. So this season, retailers should embrace their happy-to-be-here workers by giving them reasons to be happy (free meals, preferential shifts or an extra vacation day could do it). Happy workers will be helpful, and their customers will more likely want to see them in 2024. And we’re talking a lot of customers: Nearly 150 million people shopped on Thanksgiving and Black Friday in 2022, Statista reports.

And Be Thankful For All The Happy Holidays

Years ago, retailers starting wishing their customers “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” This inclusivity is not just a practice of good will, it’s a practice of good business.

By recognizing all of the December holidays, retailers are encouraged to recognize the preferences and values of all the people who celebrate them. This should make for more relevant shopping experiences, and more purchases.

Consumers love discounts, but they show thanks when being treated like one in a million.

This article originally appeared in Forbes.

Forbes.com retail contributor Jenn McMillen is nationally renowned as the architect of GameStop’s PowerUp Rewards, and is Founder and Chief Accelerant of Incendio, a firm that builds and fixes marketing, consumer engagement, loyalty and CRM programs. Incendio provides a nimble, flexible and technology-agnostic approach without the big-agency cost structure and is a trusted partner of some of the biggest brands in the U.S.