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Ann Fairhurst, professor and head of UT's Department of Retail, Hospitality, and tourism management.
Ann Fairhurst, professor and head of UT’s Department of Retail, Hospitality, and tourism management.

Online shopping, personalized in-store shopping experiences, and self-gifting will dominate the 2016 holiday shopping season, according to Ann Fairhurst, professor and head of UT’s Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management.

“Consumers are taking a well-rounded approach to holiday shopping this year,” said Fairhurst. “They’ll be shopping online and via apps on their mobile devices as well as in-store.”

The National Retail Federation predicts consumers will spend an average of $935 this holiday season, and overall sales are projected to increase by 3.6 percent from last year to nearly $656 billion.

Online sales are predicted to be up 10 percent this year, with free shipping a key factor for consumers. Best Buy and Target are offering free shipping on any size order.

“Another trend is that retailers will be creating more heartfelt and personalized in-store experiences to drive sales on the brick-and-mortar side,” said Fairhurst. “Although retailers are promoting deals on apps for consumers to shop smarter, there will also be exclusive products and offers in-store only.”

For example, Walmart will have selfie booths for customers to take pictures, as well as roaming Santas to help with gift selection. Target will have toy demonstrations. Saks Fifth Avenue will have holiday helpers throughout its stores to help customers pick out gifts for everyone on their list.

As for self-gifting, six out of 10 holiday shoppers plan to purchase gifts for themselves, up 4 percent from last year, according to Prosper Insights and Analytics.

“Shoppers can’t resist a great deal on merchandise,” said Fairhurst. “They want great gifts for themselves, too.”

As for the “shop small” movement, only 23 percent of consumers are projected to shop at local businesses this year. Department stores and online sales will dominate the market.

“National campaigns like Small Business Saturday are most successful when local downtown organizations promote shopping local,” said Fairhurst.

This year more retailers are also opting to close on Thanksgiving Day.

The Mall of America, the largest mall in the United States, will close, as will Dillard’s; TJ Maxx; Bed, Bath and Beyond; and most home and wholesale stores.

“When consumers were surveyed, 54 percent said they favor stores being closed on Thanksgiving so employees and customers can spend time with family and friends,” said Fairhurst. “But stores like Macy’s, JC Penney’s, Kohl’s, Target, and Toys R Us will remain open Thanksgiving Day and offer some great deals and door-buster exclusives.”

This year’s hottest toys are related to popular movies like Star Wars and Trolls, as well as Hatchimals, Legos, and Pokémon toys. Gift cards will continue to be a big seller.


Tyra Haag (865-974-5460,