Annual Survey Spots Retail Real Estate Trends

Respondents Report Surprise Sales Peaks, Black Friday Numbers Dip

Results of Levin Management’s fourth annual post-holiday Retail Sentiment Survey once again revealed a number of emerging retail real estate trends. Conducted three times each year, our Retail Sentiment Surveys poll store managers in our 95 property, 13 million-square-foot portfolio of shopping centers (with most responses reflecting New Jersey trends). The store managers represent the front line of retail activity, and we will be sharing our findings in several upcoming blog posts.

To begin, here is what our managers told us about their 2013 holiday sales and their strongest selling periods.

2013 Holiday Sales Exceeded Expectations; Timing of Peaks Shifted

For 57.3 percent of the store managers in our Survey, holiday sales brought cheer. Over half, or 57.3 percent of responders, said their stores performed at the same level or better than in 2012. The big surprise, many managers told us, was the timing of the peaks in sales volume. The high point for 26.9 percent of the retailers occurred not on the much-hyped Black Friday, but rather in the middle week of December. That period saw the highest volume of holiday sales, while only 15.4 percent cited Black Friday weekend as their top time.

What’s behind this shift in timing, and is it here to stay? The Black Friday fall-off may have something to do with retailers’ aggressive pre-Thanksgiving promotions (in fact, 12.8 percent of our respondents reported that their holiday sales peaked before the Thanksgiving/Black Friday weekend). Looking ahead, we suspect the idea of the early push could re-shape the holiday sales calendar. Early promotion is something retailers are likely to repeat in 2014, when once again Thanksgiving comes late in November, cutting the number of days in the traditional holiday shopping season.

Another unexpected peak, reported by 11.5 percent of the managers in our Survey, occurred in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, which more than doubled the activity for that period in 2012. The increased popularity of gift cards may be the likely driver of this change. Data from the International Council of Shopping Centers supports this possibility, with a report indicating that 2013 gift card purchases represented a record 23.7 percent of total annual holiday consumer purchasing. Gift card recipients, we are assuming, used their pre-loaded cards to take advantage of post-Christmas week markdowns. With the exploding popularity of gift cards projected to continue into 2014 and beyond, the post-Christmas week may assume a new prominence in the holiday sales cycle and new opportunities for retailers. It’s a watchable trend in retail real estate.

Look for more insights from our 2013 Retail Sentiment Survey in future posts on this blog. Click here to see a full press release about the results.


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