Saks Fifth Avenue Survey Finds Shoppers Willing To Spend This Holiday Season

Saks Fifth Avenue’s holiday gift guide shows a group of people dressed in evening attire and partying like it’s 2019. The retailer believes this is a fair representation of its customer base, thanks to a survey of 2,400 consumers who shared their shopping outlooks for the holiday season.

“We did the research, which we do multiple times a year so we can really understand what’s going on with the luxury consumer,” said Emily Essner, Chief Marketing Officer of Saks. “Lots of interesting things came out of it as we prepare for the holidays. One of the pieces we were really pleased to see, is that 76% of shoppers said they’re planning to spend the same or more than they did last holiday season.”

Sales during the holidays are expected to grow between 4% and 6% in 2022, according to Deloitte, which forecast e-commerce sales will grow by 12.8% to 14.3%, year-over-year, during the 2022-2023 holiday season. E-commerce holiday sales are seen hitting between $260 billion and $264 billion this season, Deloitte said.

“Obviously, there’s a lot going on with the economy, but even in a difficult economic environment, with this luxury group, we’re seeing a lot of continued strength,” said Essner. “Another thing that we saw that I think bodes nicely for our business is, there’s a lot of pent-up interest in dressing up.”

Double the number of people who last year said they were dressing up, are dressing to the nines this year. “There’s interest in going to big occasions,” Essner said. “So, as we think about holiday gifting and gifting overall, we also have people getting ready for the holidays, so a lot of strength there.”

The survey showed that there’s interest in clothing, which ranked as one of the top gifts to both receive and to give. “While this is a different economic environment, we’re really pleased with what we’re seeing with the luxury consumer,” Essner said. “We think this is largely representative of the luxury consumer.”

What may not bode so well for retailers: luxury consumers are planning to shop later than they did last year. “It’s probably not a surprise when you think about the supply chain noise and issues that were out there last year and by and large are still unresolved,” Essner said. “We see holiday pushing back a little bit more. We’re certainly seeing a lot of interest in vacations, and pent-up demand. Even last year, and sort of depending on where you were and the evolution of the pandemic, celebrations were often more muted. There still is a lot of making up for lost time.

“The good news from our vantage point, is when luxury consumers are getting ready to go on a trip, they’re often purchasing things for that trip like swimsuits and clothing that’s appropriate. We’re happy either way, but we’re certainly seeing interest from both sides,” Essner said.

Services are very important to luxury consumers, and Saks is offering free shipping and free returns as well as buy online, pick up in store. “We’re taking advantage of that exclusive relationship we have with the consumer and Saks Fifth Avenue stores. As we get closer to the holidays, that’s very important. We’re doing same-day delivery in Manhattan.”

Saks is also touting experiential offerings, large ticket, money-can’t-buy experiences. “Whether that’s sitting at our iconic holiday window unveiling or having a one-on-one shopping trip with our fashion director, Roopal Patel, we have fantastic experiential offerings customers can buy and they also benefit our foundation, which supports mental health efforts across communities in the U.S.,” Essner said.

“We’ve also offered an advent calendar for beauty products for every day leading up to Christmas in December,” Essner said. “Beauty gifts are always a part of our offering.”

Print continues to be part of the overall marketing mix. Saks’ catalog was sent out last month. There’s also an online holiday gift guide “that has a really robust assortment of holiday gifts, as well as our live shopping program, Saks Live, and by a really robust assortment of events there that are highlighting fantastic gift options.”

Saks Live lives on and is technologically designed to meet customers’ immediate needs, allowing them to engage with presenters while shopping and experiencing events in tandem.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our customers and viewers of our site to be able to experience events that are really tailored to all sorts of interests,” Essner said. “These events are super-immersive and interactive. We’ll have everything from a fantastic influencer talking about what excites her about gifting this season to setting a beautiful Thanksgiving table, on and on. It’s robust programming. We’re running dozens of them between now and the holidays with all sorts of different interests, so there’s really something for everybody.”

Saks has extended its live streaming into the “phygital” realm, meaning, it’s using streaming to give viewers access to exclusive in-person experiences via Saks Live. “For example, our first immersive pop-up shopping experience in Aspen featured a Saks Live [segment] with influencer and co-founder of Summer Fridays, Marianna Hewitt, to give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the Saks Aspen Pop-Up and her top travel picks from the pop-up’s merchandise assortment.

“We’re seeing a lot of strength in both self-purchasing and gifting, even as the pandemic evolves and consumers’ behavior changes,” Essner said. “We feel really well-positioned to take advantage of the consumer, whether she’s focusing on gifting or focusing on something more experiential that she needs to get dressed for.”