Brick and Mortar Sales Expected to Surge this Holiday Season; Retailers Face Supply Chain, Shipping, Labor Challenges as Consumers Return to Stores

17 Nov 2021

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More consumers will return to brick-and-mortar stores for annual gift purchases this holiday season, with in-store sales expected to jump significantly compared to 2020. Faced with the prospect of higher costs and hard-to-find items, shoppers are expected to put gift cards at the top of the gift-giving list in order to avoid package delivery delays and in-store merchandise shortages, due to well-publicized supply chain challenges.

CBRE’s annual Holiday Trends Guide highlights trends in both retailing and consumer shopping, as well as the impact of those shifts on the U.S. commercial real estate retail market. 

“We expect shoppers to return to brick and mortar retail in a big way this holiday season,” said Bill Wright, CBRE’s Retail Leader for the Americas. “E-commerce sales will grow too, but retailers are focused on building in-store inventory in preparation for higher foot traffic than we’ve seen in the last few years.”

“Nashville has benefited from substantial economic improvement in recent months due to an influx of new residents and the return of tourism and entertainment,” said Austin Benedict, First Vice President with CBRE in Nashville. “That, in turn, has buoyed demand for retail as demonstrated by the continual stream of new, local and national retailers opening in areas such as Fifth and Broadway and the 12 South neighborhood. If retailers can staff appropriately to keep up with the demand, we expect retailers will attract significant in-store shopping and see increased spending this holiday season.”

Holiday retail sales figures are comprised of U.S. retail sales in November and December, excluding auto, gas, and restaurants. Various sources1 forecast total holiday sales to increase between 7% and 10.5% this year. Based on U.S. Census Bureau data and a range of industry estimates, CBRE anticipates an increase of 8.4% from last year to more than $800 billion. Brick-and-mortar retail sales, which were essentially flat last year, when COVID concerns dissuaded some shoppers from venturing out, are expected to rise by 8%, a 10-year high, as shoppers return to stores. E-commerce will expand as well, rising between 10% and 15%, according to various industry estimates.

A National Retail Federation (NRF) survey shows that consumers plan to make more in-store purchases in most categories, including department stores, discount stores, grocery, outlets and small shops.

But keeping the shelves stocked won’t be easy for retailers.

With supply chain bottlenecks and national warehouse vacancy at a historic low of 3.6%, retailers will have to be prepared to avoid inventory shortages. The ratio of retailers’ inventory levels to sales plummeted this year to 1.10 in August – compared to 1.47 prior to COVID, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Many retailers are turning to costly air freight to get more products to locations on time. In most cases, consumers can expect to see these rising transportation and supply chain costs reflected in higher prices at the checkout counter.

In addition, the holiday season is typically a massive hiring period for the retail industry, but labor shortages loom. As of August, there was an estimated 1.2 million job openings in the retail trade, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, a rise of 62% year-over-year. Many smaller retailers may struggle to find the labor they need to handle the holiday rush.

“There will be challenges for retailers, but those that are the most creative in their product offerings and disciplined in their supply chain strategies will be well-positioned for a major boost this holiday season,” said Brandon Isner, Head of Americas Retail Research for CBRE. “For consumers, many traditional shopping practices were put on hold last year or significantly changed. We anticipate that the retail center will regain prominence with shoppers looking for the experiences they missed, but consumer should also expect prices to be a bit steeper.”

Read the entire report here.

1 Sources: Deloitte, KPMG, Mastercard, National Retail Federation.
About CBRE Group, Inc.
CBRE Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBRE), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Dallas, is the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm (based on 2021 revenue). The company has more than 105,000 employees (excluding Turner & Townsend employees) serving clients in more than 100 countries. CBRE serves a diverse range of clients with an integrated suite of services, including facilities, transaction and project management; property management; investment management; appraisal and valuation; property leasing; strategic consulting; property sales; mortgage services and development services. Please visit our website at www.cbre.com.