AUSTIN (KXAN) — Retail experts say there are many reasons why more holiday shoppers are expected to hit stores this year, both in-person and online, including pent-up demand, bigger budgets and integrating technology in stores.
“We’re probably going to hit an all-time, or close to an all-time high,” said Barry Haydon, executive vice president of real estate company JLL.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s latest monthly retail trade report indicates that sales increased by 1.7% from September to October, and 16.3% over last October.
JLL says that shows folks shopped for Halloween and started shopping for the holidays, too.
The company’s holiday retail survey found that more than half of shoppers said they would shop for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and 58% of shoppers plan to either shop in-stores, or use some form of shopping that involves a physical store, like buying online and picking up in-person.
“Shopping last year was a little crazy; online, you’re not sure what you’re going to get,” says Desiree Gonzalez. “I had to send like half of my stuff back I got for myself.”
Gonzalez says she started shopping in-person again once she got fully vaccinated against COVID-19. She says she missed touching and trying on her clothes.
That’s one reason why online clothing retailer, Fabletics, says they decided to open a new store inside Barton Creek Square Mall this month.
“Our physical stores help bring the brand to life in a way that is hard to do online,” said Ron Harries, head of retail for Fabletics. “Being able to provide an opportunity to see our product in person and experience the brand first hand really adds value for our customers.”
They’re also keeping their online experiences — and meshing the two — to allow customers to mix-and-match their experience: You can buy online and pick up in-store, or fill your cart online and try it on in-store before buying.
“All of our technology is connected; from our website to our handheld devices, to our fitting rooms, and your personal online shopping cart,” says Fabletics spokesperson Tony Tiburzy.
Fitting rooms are equipped Fabletics’ own technology called Omnisuite. Employees scan each product, which appears on the touch screen inside the fitting room. Customers can request a different size or color, and an employee will be notified, bringing the new product to their door.
“They really want to make… that transaction kind of stick,” says Haydon. “So let’s just make sure that it’s exactly, or close to, what the expectations of the consumer… is for that product.”
According to JLL’s survey results, shoppers also have more money to spend this year — almost as much as they did before the pandemic, which was an average holiday budget of $874 per person. That dipped to $694 in 2020, and is back up to $870 per person this year, according to JLL.
That’s true for Gonzalez, a retail worker who faced a tight budget last year due to her hours being cut back.
“Now, it’s more working because we have stores open 24/7, rather than just a couple of hours,” she says.
Haydon says they also expect more transactions in Austin, due to its many new neighbors.
“People will spend a little bit more here in Austin compared to other markets,” he says. “That’s just a fact of… who’s come in here, called Austin home.”
The growth is why Fabletics says they chose the city for one of their newest physical locations. Their Barton Creek Square Mall store is open, with an official launch event on Dec. 4. Fabletics has another Austin store located at The Domain.