Dec 14, 2018
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Hands-free shopping takes off as fragrance, watches gear up for strong Holiday 2018

Dec 14, 2018

Having predicted the rise of blended retail this holiday season, the NPD Group has now reported that “hands-free shopping” is increasingly being observed in brick-and-mortar locations around the US.

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The concept is explained by NPD’s chief industry advisor Marshal Cohen as making online purchases while visiting physical stores, an activity which allows consumers to enjoy the experience of shopping in brick-and-mortar locations, without the hassle of having to carry their purchases around with them.
Indeed, NPD’s research shows that the experiential aspects of in-store shopping are particularly important to consumers during the holidays, with half of those interviewed in the group’s 2018 Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey saying that the very act of going out and shopping puts them in the holiday spirit.

Further contributing to the growing trend is the fact that many retailers are now offering free shipping over the holiday season, a benefit which vastly increases the attractiveness of making online purchases. The widespread adoption of free shipping is astutely timed, as for the first time ever, NPD’s survey respondents cited the service as the most important factor influencing their decision on where they would ultimately make their purchases.
The rise in hands-free shopping observed by NPD fits in with the group’s previous prediction that Holiday 2018 would be dominated by blended retail. With six in ten consumers planning to shop both online and in store during the period, NPD suggests that savvy retailers can get ahead by offering shoppers an integrated cross-channel experience that combines the convenience of e-commerce with the experience of a physical store.
“Brick-and-mortar retailers are presented with a huge opportunity to better compete with the growing e-commerce world during the holiday season and in the year ahead,” said Cohen. “A blended in-store and online marketing approach, enhanced with customer service, brings shoppers into the store and preserves opportunities for critical impulse purchases.”

In terms of product categories shaping up for a strong holiday season, NPD has highlighted both watches and fragrances.
Watches saw their highest sales in three years in the first half of 2018, reflecting a rise of 8% year over year, and as pointed out by NPD executive director and industry analyst Reginald Brack, the category usually performs better in the second half of the year.

The growth is currently being driven by luxury watches, with sales of timepieces over $3,000 rising in the double digits year to date. Sport watches are also proving to be particularly popular, outperforming dress models as consumers search for a timepiece that is suitable for an active lifestyle while also being presentable in the boardroom. Unisex watches and blue dials were also pointed out by NPD as category trends.

As for fragrances, dollar sales were up 8% year to date through October and have been seeing peaks in growth around key periods since December 2017, when they rose 5%. They spiked 9% during the week of Mother’s Day this year, for example, and 12% in the week of Valentine’s Day.
The category has racked up over $2.7 billion in sales so far this year and while it has been growing more slowly than skincare – currently the fastest growing beauty category –, it is progressing more quickly than makeup, the largest category in the beauty industry.

In the run-up to the all-important December shopping period, the best-selling women’s fragrance was Coco Mademoiselle in November, while the top men’s fragrance was Acqua di Gio Pour Homme. However, Larissa Jensen, executive director and beauty industry analyst at NPD, also predicts that new brands and launches will be an important driver of growth this holiday season.

Continued coverage of NPD’s Holiday 2018 analysis can be found on the group’s website.

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