HOLIDAY RETAIL TRENDS
Optimism and Resilience Define Retailers’ Post-Thanksgiving Strategies
It’s the most exciting time of the year in retail as stores make their final pushes to reach their end-of-year sales goals during the winding down of 2023. The official kickoff to the holiday season was in full swing with festive decorations and fabulous offerings within some of the most popular California shopping areas from Los Angeles to Sonoma County.
The past year in retail has yielded more than a few challenges as brazen thefts and tightened consumer spending due to financial hurdles, including inflation and high credit-card interest rates, have negatively impacted the industry. However, there has also been much optimism as the year comes to a close. The National Retail Federation has forecasted that consumers will spend between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion during the 2023 holiday season—a 3 to 4 percent increase over 2022.
From the bustling outlet malls of Southern California to Northern California wine-country cool, California Apparel News tracked the consumer retail trends that made an impression over the post-Thanksgiving weekend.
Beverly Hills–style holidays
While most retailers rely on the last four to six weeks of the year to bring in the bulk of their sales revenue, the city of Beverly Hills, Calif., is unique. Extravagant big-ticket offerings from Rolls-Royce and Rolex, Harry Winston and Tiffany, and Gucci and Louis Vuitton are always in high demand.
Foot traffic was heavy on the famed Rodeo Drive during Black Friday. The year-round luxury shopping and tourist destination of Beverly Hills offered lavish shopping experiences on the retail menu rather than Black Friday bargain hunting.
“Sales numbers are back to pre-pandemic amounts,” said Todd Johnson, president and CEO of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce.
People lined up early to get into streetwear fashion brand Kith at Two Rodeo Shops as well as Maison Goyard on Rodeo Drive.
This year’s sweet spot for stocking stuffers and holiday entertaining was the Sweet Angeles café and bakery, which opened at the Rodeo Collection on Oct. 17.
In addition to the world-class shopping, there was plenty of holiday excitement in Beverly Hills from city-wide decorations, nightly searchlight and 3D shows at city hall, carolers and events.
“We’re excited for people to come see us. All are welcome, and I think everyone will walk away with a wow factor,” said Johnson.
Festive window dressing at Westfield Century City
The Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles saw significantly more traffic compared to last year, with shoppers eager to get their hands on luxury items and take advantage of Black Friday deals.
“We know that a lot of the stores have been running their specials for some time, but today is when you feel the energy; people are out there to experience the holidays,” said Louis Schillace, general manager of Westfield Century City. “It’s a good pace to see the customers coming through here, and they’re really enjoying it versus in years past where it may have been more hectic.”
Technology and toy stores like Lego were busy while Gen Zers waited patiently to get their hands on Australia-based clothing brand Princess Polly.
Eveningwear was proving to be very popular this year as consumers embraced occasions that call for dressing up and going out.
“People are starting to get together again and have parties in ways they haven’t in years past, so I am excited to see that people are getting things to wear for a night out [or] holiday parties,” said Schillace, who noted this trend reflected in window displays from Bloomingdale’s, COS (Collection of Style), Macy’s, Reiss London and Zara.
In addition to its Holiday Market, live performances and snowfall, Schillace was excited to share the latest experiences at the mall such as the new American Girl flagship store and the well-received “’Tis the Grinch Holiday Talk Show” and experience.
Shopping around the clock at The Citadel
Jumpstarting its holiday-shopping season early, Commerce, Calif.’s Citadel Outlets welcomed shoppers at 8 p.m. on Nov. 23, Thanksgiving night, at select retailers including the Adidas, Calvin Klein, Dodgers Clubhouse, Guess, Kate Spade, Lacoste, Michael Kors, Movado, Sunglass Hut, Tilly’s and the U.S. Polo Assn stores.
All retailers were open bright and early at 6 a.m. on Black Friday to join the all-night, 27-hour shopping party, which ended when the center closed at 11 p.m. on Nov. 24, with extended hours through the weekend. By inviting shoppers to visit the center early, Citadel management expected the jump on post-Thanksgiving sales would support tenants as they tried to achieve their goals during the final quarter of 2023.
“Every year at Citadel Outlets we host an exciting Black Friday spectacle for families and shoppers seeking out the steepest deals of the year heading into the holiday season,” said Manny Pereida, senior marketing manager of Citadel Outlets. “Our all-night shopping party started at 8 p.m., with many Citadel Outlets retailers opening their doors for a full 27 hours. Based off the size of crowds we saw this year, we’re confident that foot traffic will stay up throughout December and our retailers will reach their end-of-year sales goals.”
Glimmers of hope for the holidays in San Francisco
San Francisco’s recent crime and homelessness challenges have caused many top retailers to flee the city, but a noticeable police presence throughout the Black Friday weekend helped holiday revelers feel safe. The area’s Christmas tree and skating rink drew large crowds to Union Square, the city’s downtown shopping mecca.
If few were shopping, at least the mood was festive, according to one clerk who has worked for a decade at the square’s major department stores. Still, he said, shopping habits have been drastically altered by COVID-era cocooning.
“At first people didn’t want to come in, and while we’ve passed that stage, it’s still slow to come back,” he said on the condition of anonymity. With the rise of e-commerce and all the city’s problems, “it’s really a strange time.”
But shopping downtown is certainly better than the “doom spiral” that media reports would lead consumers to believe, said a manager of a major international luxury house located near the square.
“Families were out with strollers, and the streets were full of people. It was very positive to see people come downtown and patronize the city’s businesses,” said the manager, who requested to remain anonymous. “These glimmers of revenue hope planted seeds for the holiday shopping season.”
Since the high luxury sector doesn’t typically offer Black Friday discounts, most customers were browsing instead of buying. And while some shoppers requested shopping bags without any branding so as not to tempt thieves, the store manager noted, “The city is coming back, and there’s plenty of protection for people to shop.”
Ten minutes from Union Square on blight-plagued Market Street stands the city’s largest indoor mall, San Francisco Centre, where owners Westfield and Brookfield stopped making payments on their $558 million mortgage in June. In October a superior court judge appointed Trident Pacific as the mall’s new management.
Although foot traffic was noticeably scant by Sunday, flagship chains in the men’s sector reported better-than-expected sales over the Black Friday weekend. The closing of the center’s Nordstrom flagship department store has caused many customers to be unsure if the mall is even still open, said Sujata Shrestha, floor supervisor at Zara Men. “But we did pretty well despite people not coming to the city as much. It was more traffic than we expected, though compared to last year it’s still low. But people liked the deals, and our sales were good.”
At a major retailer, the manager of the men’s section said that while foot traffic was moderate, sales were phenomenal. “We had a great week overall. The quality of the shopping has actually been pretty high,” the manager, who requested anonymity, revealed. “We don’t operate in doom and gloom; the traffic is what it is, and we operate accordingly and are doing great.”
It was also a fantastic weekend for menswear at H&M, according to department manager Daniel Romero. “We’re happy about sales and doing really well. As long as the customer gets their money’s worth and we deliver the best service in the industry that’s what matters to us.”
Heralding in a new era of NorCal retail experiences
Many San Franciscans have moved 60 miles north to the town of Healdsburg, Calif., which has gone through rapid gentrification over the past decade. The city allows only independent retailers on its charming and historic town square, where there are some 16 apparel boutiques offering variations on wine-country casual.
Black Friday was “phenomenal” at Bowdon Designs, with shoppers grabbing accessories such as fingerless gloves by Mademoiselle before slowing down for the remainder of the weekend. Merete Wimmer’s two boutiques, Rete and Ereloom, were extremely busy in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, with Michael Stars and Velvet especially hot. “It’s nice when the brand recognition is there so we don’t need to explain them,” noted Wimmer.
At Gathered Wildflowers, a boho-inspired shop serving mothers and daughters, the weekend was merely “decent” compared to last year, said owner Cindy Holman, who was unsure what accounted for the difference. “I think people just have less money to spend,” said Holman.
At Ooh La Luxe, in business for 15 years, manager Selina Rodriguez said, “I think it’s been a good year considering all the economic things.” Standout items for the season included oversized cable-knit sweaters, which quickly sold out.
After years in business running the highly regarded Healdsburg boutique Zizi, owner Cynthia Zizzi still finds the holiday-shopping season unpredictable. “Traffic and sales were very good, up from last year,” she said, “but I’ve had this store for 26 years and I’ve still never figured out [the difference].”