Online sales driving increases in holiday shopping

Some shoppers looking for the perfect gift on the traditional Thanksgiving shopping weekend are rapidly abandoning malls and brick-and-mortar stores to make their purchases online.

Holiday sales are expected to top previous records this year, due in part to the rapid increase of online shopping sales. There is an estimated 10 percent increase in non-store sales this year, and local experts say this will impact the types of area jobs seasonal workers will secure.

“It is clear that the age-old holiday tradition of heading out to stores with family and friends is now equally matched in the new tradition of looking online for holiday savings opportunities,” said Matthew Shay of the National Retail Federation.

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Online offers have become just as popular as in-store promotions — especially for Millennials, according to the federation. In 2015, young adults shopped in masses both online and in stores during the Black Friday weekend. According to a survey, 62 percent of 25 to 34 year olds said they shopped in stores, while 58 percent shopped online.

In 2015, about 151 million shoppers were in stores and online over the Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend. Of those shoppers, about 41 million people — 46 percent — said they shopped online on Thanksgiving Day.

The trend indicates why so many larger retailers are closing their doors on the holiday — because consumers will still shop online from the convenience of the Thanksgiving dinner table, and it allows the companies to pay its retail workers less.

Overall, NRF experts project that retail sales in November and December — excluding automotive, gas and restaurants — to increase a solid 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion.

Serdar Durmusoglu, associate professor of marketing at the University of Dayton, has studied retail trends for more than a decade. He said big retailers often have to pay workers overtime or give special bonuses if they work on holidays.

Shutting the doors on Thanksgiving means retailers — like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Nordstrom, REI and Staples — don’t incur that extra cost.

Ramon Avila, a marketing professor at Ball State University, said the reason is simpler — shutting down for the day also boosts the morale of weary front-line workers. Avila said employees feel stressed and overworked.

“Over the past few years, we’ve heard a great deal of moaning and groaning by employees who have to come into work while their family is at home, enjoying Thanksgiving,”Avila said. “People simply don’t want to walk away from young children or older relatives on what is supposed to be a very special day in our country. ”

The boom in online shopping doesn’t mean the jobs aren’t there for the season. Workers are still needed, just as much as seasons, for warehouse and boxing and shipping positions. In Ohio alone, companies are hiring for jobs that go beyond in-store retail duties.

Amazon, the online retail giant, announced it was looking to hire 120,000 employees for the holiday season, which included hiring in Cincinnati. Jobs included filling customer orders and preparing them for delivery.

In the Miami Valley, Kohl’s hired for 1,000 seasonal positions at its Monroe e-commerce center. The facility, located at 3500 Salzman Road, pays workers to help with loading and unloading trailers, scanning merchandise, packing orders and replenishing merchandise.

Durmusoglu said that shift in job type will continue on as more consumers go online for purchases.

The need for in-store jobs still persists, with companies like Target, Elder-Beerman and Macy’s hiring thousands of workers in this area to manage the chaos of in-store holiday shopping. According to NRF, retailers are expected to hire between 640,000 and 690,000 seasonal workers this holiday season.

Durmusoglu said most retailers are looking at sales as a whole — investing in online, mobile and in-store shopping. He said each platform serves a different type of customer.

For some shoppers, it still goes back to the experience. Scott Ford of Dayton said he won’t go online for shopping this year, but will look for in-store deals throughout the season.

“It’s more about the tradition,” he said. “I like to see the masses of people, the Christmas trees and decorations.”

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