Saks Takes Its ‘Pulse’ on Holiday Shopping

Saks executives are feeling confident about the 2022 holiday season and have survey data supporting the sentiment.

Of the nearly 2,400 luxury shoppers participating in the “Saks Luxury Pulse,” 76 percent said they plan to spend the same or more on holiday shopping this year, down slightly from 79 percent last year.

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Sixty-five percent said they plan to start holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, versus 68 percent of respondents who planned to shop pre-Thanksgiving last year.

And 43 percent said they plan to shop mostly online with some in-store shopping this holiday season, compared to 50 percent last year.

“Despite an evolving economic environment, we’re pleased to see luxury consumers’ enthusiasm for shopping this holiday season, both for themselves and others,” said Marc Metrick, chief executive officer of Saks, the e-commerce company of the Saks Fifth Avenue brand. “As our customers go out, travel and celebrate the holiday season, we expect them to take advantage of opportunities for self-purchasing in addition to luxury gifting. We are confident they will turn to Saks for these occasions.”

The latest Saks Luxury Pulse surveyed online 2,376 U.S. luxury consumers, between Sept. 16 and 19. They were primarily Saks customers, but all were over the age of 18 and all opted to receive the survey. The Saks Luxury Pulse is conducted quarterly, developed by Saks and administered by a third party.

“We see continued strength with luxury consumers with a little bit of softness coming from the aspirational consumer,” Emily Essner, chief marketing officer of Saks, told WWD. She defined the aspirational customer as those with household incomes of $100,000 or less.

Emily Essner
Emily Essner

Holiday 2021 for Saks and other retailers was strong, but recent industry organizations and analysts project much smaller gains for holiday 2022, and flattish or only slight gains when factoring the impact of inflation. The National Retail Federation forecasts that holiday sales in the U.S. will grow between 6 and 8 percent over 2021, to between $942.6 billion and $960.4 billion. Last year’s holiday sales grew 13.5 percent over 2020 and totaled $889.3 billion, shattering previous records.

Cowen & Co. recently stated in a report that “holiday 2022 is shaping up to be a very different dynamic than 2021 given a multitude of macro pressures that are likely to negatively impact the level of holiday consumer spending versus prior years along with heightened inventory levels across the sector which have begun to trigger a ramp up in promotional markdowns.”

Consumer spending slowed sharply in July, raising fears that the U.S. will enter into a recession and Macy’s, Nordstrom and Kohl’s in their second-quarter reports reduced forecasts for the year.

However, Saks executives don’t expect a big change from last year to 2022 in the holiday outcome, with its luxury clientele. “With the most recent results closely in line with our findings from last year’s survey, we see that the vast majority of luxury consumers remain excited and ready to shop for the holidays, even amid a different economic landscape,” Essner said. Overall, findings from the latest Saks Luxury Pulse “feel very consistent” to the survey’s findings a year ago, she added.

The latest Saks Luxury Pulse indicates that 24 percent of luxury shoppers are planning to split holiday shopping equally between online and stores, compared to 17 percent last year. For Essner, that 7 percent shift represents a significant turn to a more omnichannel approach to shopping among luxury customers.

“The Saks Luxury Pulse provides us with meaningful insights that allow us to understand our customer more deeply and how we can serve them better, with services like free shipping, same-day delivery, buy online, pick up in store,” Essner said.

“There is pent-up demand. People are making up for the time they lost during the pandemic. We are seeing that customers are very interested in getting dressed up for holiday parties or going on vacation,” said Essner. “There’s a lot of strength in clothing in men’s and women’s which customers want to buy and receive. Shoes is a top self-gifting category.”

In other findings from the Saks Luxury Pulse:

• When choosing where to shop, respondents said delivery and pickup options are their top priority, including free shipping and returns.

• Sixty-one percent of respondents say they will shop for new holiday attire, up significantly from 45 percent last year.

• The percent of respondents who plan to dress up in formal attire this holiday season – 32 percent- doubled compared to last year’s 16 percent.

• When asked about their holiday plans, 50 percent of respondents said they plan to attend and/or host a holiday party and 27 percent said they plan to go on vacation to a tropical or ski destination.

• When it comes to gifting, respondents said they want to give gift cards (69 percent), clothes (64 percent) and hobbies such as books, handcrafted items, movies (51 percent).

• When sharing what they wanted to receive as a gift, respondents chose clothes (48 percent), beauty and fragrance items (33 percent) and wine and spirits (33 percent).

• Respondents are most interested in self-gifting shoes (39 percent), handbags (28 percent) and beauty and fragrance items (27 percent).

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