Courtesy: Alyssa Powell/Business Insider

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are around the corner. So, what should we expect from this year’s holiday retail shopping season and the Thanksgiving period? Similar to the past few years, this year will also be a blockbuster holiday season. Retail holiday sales will be a substantial chunk of the expected 2019 retail sales of $5.5 trillion. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts retail holiday sales to grow by about (3.8-4.2)% to $730 billion. e-Marketer and Deloitte Consulting are even more optimistic, pegging expected holiday sales at $1.0 and $1.1 trillion, respectively, growing by (3.8-5.0)%. Holiday e-commerce sales are anticipated to range from $144 to $149 billion (Deloitte Consulting). But returns will also likely be higher this year at almost 39% (Tinuiti).

The expected higher holiday sales this year is remarkable given that the holiday season is shorter than the past few years because of the late occurrence of Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, a record number of about 165 million people are expected to shop during the Thanksgiving period. 114.6 million shoppers plan to shop on Black Friday, while 68.7 million intend to shop on Cyber Monday (NRF). However, the average spending per shopper will likely be $313, down from $335 last year (NRF). But more than a quarter of the shoppers are likely to spend over $500 (Tinuiti). Cyber Monday sales will continue to outstrip Black Friday sales this year and may touch a record $9.5 billion.

Amid the expectation of this upbeat sale, the most interesting trend is how shopper habits are changing. The number of shoppers likely to start shopping in stores (47%) and online (41%) are comparable (NRF). Surprisingly, brick-and-mortar stores are popular across age cohorts, including Gen Z. Shoppers expect retailers to be omnichannel, with more than two-fifths of them planning to buy online and pick up in-stores (Tinuiti).

Academy, Costco, Ikea, Lowe’s, Nordstrom, and Sam’s Club remain closed on Thanksgiving day. But two major retailers, Bed Bath & Beyond and GameStop, have reversed their course from past years and will open on Thanksgiving day. These retailers may want to cash in on more people wanting to shop on Thanksgiving day this year (58%) than the previous year (45%) (MiQ).

What items are likely to be hot during the Thanksgiving weekend and how are shoppers going to get their holiday gift ideas and deals? As always, the iPhone is a coveted item. Nintendo Switch Lite, Sony PlayStation PS4, Amazon Echo Buds, and Apple’s Airpods Pro and Airpods will be popular. All shoppers will be on the lookout for the best gifts to buy for their loved ones. Millennials are twice as likely to learn about holiday gifts from social media than baby boomers and Gen X’ers (Qualtrics).

What are the best days for getting the best deals and on which items? The hot deals will be on the day before Thanksgiving for apparel, Thanksgiving day for jewelry, appliances, computers, tablets, TVs, and sporting goods, Black Friday for X-mas décor, devices, kitchen items, and other expensive items, Cyber Monday for gadgets and toys, and Giving Tuesday for furniture and bedding.

The Thanksgiving shopping experience is becoming almost a weeklong affair. There is something exciting for everyone every day. Whether you are a touch-and-feel consumer at a physical store, a desktop clicker, a mobile shopper, or an omnichannel buyer, you have plenty of choices. If you are a retailer, there are ample opportunities to gain through omnichannel retailing. If you are an analyst and researcher like me, it is fun monitoring, analyzing and predicting shopping behavior and sales.