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Retailers Expecting Slight Improvement in Holiday Sales

As the holiday season approaches, retailers are expecting more of the same. According to new research, 38 percent of retailers expect to see a slight improvement in holiday sales numbers this year, while 36 percent of retailers expect similar sales numbers as last year.  However, 11 percent of retailers are expecting to see a significant late push to come from last-minute shoppers.

The Retail Finance Outlook 2011, a survey of 100 retail industry executives at middle market retail companies conducted jointly by Forbes Insight and CIT, found the following outlook for major shopping days during the upcoming holiday season.

Black Friday: Sales on the day after Thanksgiving are expected to be on pace with last year's totals, according to 44 percent of retailers, while 27 percent of retailers expect sales to be up slightly from the 2010 totals. Nine percent of retailers expect a significant increase.

Cyber Monday: On the Monday after Black Friday 57 percent of retailers are expecting sales to remain the same as last year while 18 percent expect slightly higher sales. Eight percent expect a 10 percent or greater increase in sales from the past year.

Super Saturday:  The day before Christmas will be a busy one, according to 61 percent of retailers who expect to see similar sales numbers as last year. Additionally, 20 percent of retailers expect to see a slight increase in sales on that day.

"Our study shows that there's cautious optimism for the retail industry this holiday season," said Burt Feinberg, group head of CIT Commercial and Industrial, a bank-holding company that provides financing capital to small businesses, middle market clients and customers. "Other retail trends to watch are price-conscious consumers looking for bargains. More than a third of retail industry executives predict an increase in last-minute shopping.”

The research is also projecting an increase in the use of social media this holiday season by both retailers and shoppers.  Web sales have grown among 63 percent of retailers and an additional 58 percent of retail executives report shifting traditional advertising dollars toward social media campaigns.

"Our study confirms how important social media is in our economy, and in particular, the retail industry," Feinberg said. "We see in our own portfolio and in the companies we're looking at for new financing that the better performers are those that have been ahead of the curve by embracing e-commerce and who've developed digital strategies to market their products."

The outlook for retailers looking past the holiday season is much improved as 59 percent expect greater retail sales over the next year as opposed to 9 percent of retailers who expect a decline over that time.