Holiday Sales Sprint   //   December 20, 2023

How brands are courting last-minute shoppers in the final days before Christmas

From giveaways to gift cards, brands are finding new ways to spruce up holiday sales as the clock to Christmas ticks down.

The final days before Christmas are a mad dash for retailers, delivery platforms and postal services every year. While many shoppers bought presents in October and November, 10% waited until December to purchase gifts, according to a recent report by Gartner. Nearly 142 million consumers plan to shop on the last Saturday before Christmas (also known as Super Saturday), a survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics found. That is down 10% from last year but up 13% since 2017, the last time Super Saturday fell on Dec. 23.

Now, as Santa’s arrival draws near, brands are doing everything they can to encourage last-minute gifting. Here’s how some have decided to celebrate the occasion.

Deck the hall with discounts

Discounts remain a popular route for retailers this year. For instance, subscription service Trade Coffee — which delivers beans from local roasters — saw “such good momentum” with its Black Friday deal of 15% off subscriptions that it decided to extend it through December, Jessica Anselmi, chief customer officer at Trade Coffee, told Modern Retail.

Digital subscriptions, especially, help Trade Coffee capture last-minute sales because they avoid the challenge of shipping cutoffs. In fact, the week before Christmas “is a key week for us every year in the holiday season,” Anselmi said. This year, Trade Coffee is discounting subscriptions for gift-giving as well as self-gifting, the latter of which it has not done before. “That was a strategy for us this year: ‘Let’s not exclusively just focus on gifting, but try to also use it as a general kind of customer capture period for us,'” Anselmi said.

Trade Coffee is also offering nine gift boxes this holiday season, compared to a few last year. “We wanted to lean into the fact that not everyone’s ready to sign up for a craft coffee subscription, or maybe doesn’t want to gift a subscription, but they still like the idea of giving the gift of coffee to someone in their life,” Anselmi said. These nine boxes have “significantly outperformed” last year’s box sales, according to Anselmi.

American Freight, a discount retailer selling furniture, mattresses and open-box appliances, is changing up its holiday sales strategy due to inflation. Last year, it focused more on clearance and closeout items, said Mike Gray, chief of stores at American Freight. This year, it’s focusing more on reducing the prices of some of its main sellers. “We know, right now, consumers are price sensitive, so dropping that core product… we think gives a great value proposition to consumers,” Gray told Modern Retail.

For 2023, American Freight is using the tagline “It’s a Wrap” to advertise its savings, Alissa Ahlman, chief merchandising officer of Franchise Group, Inc., told Modern Retail. Right now, the company’s deals include $100 off two of its memory foam mattresses, $100 off three of its five-piece counter-height dining sets and $100 off a two-piece sectional. The company is also holding local promotions in stores, of which it has more than 370 locations across the U.S.

Giveaways & gift cards galore

Other retailers are bringing their own twist to the “12 Days of Christmas” song with giveaways and bonus gifts.

Aloha Collection, a splash-proof bag brand, ran a “Five Days of Aloha” promotion through Dec. 15 with five giveaways organized into themes like the beach or fitness. While Aloha Collection ran a “12 Days of Aloha” promotion last year, it changed the length and structure of the giveaways this year to bring in like-minded partners like Hoka, Nuera Swim and Otis Eyewear, HeatherĀ Aiu, co-founder of Aloha Collection, told Modern Retail.

Meanwhile, Brunt, a workwear brand known for its boots, held a “12 Days of Brunt” promotion for its Instagram followers that involved giveaways like a Yeti cooler and a Solo stove, as well as guaranteed discounts such as $20 off its Marin eight-inch comp toe boot and a free charging cable.

One of Brunt’s most successful offers was a free boot Christmas tree ornament with purchase and the chance to win a $500 gift card to Brunt, Sarah Litt, senior director of customer loyalty & retention at Brunt, told Modern Retail. Brunt sold a million dollars’ worth of merchandise on Black Friday this year, and the “12 Days of Brunt” “really helps us keep momentum,” Litt said.

Bonus gift cards, too, are taking off this year. Aloha Collection, the bag brand, is giving customers who spend $150 by Dec. 31 a $50 voucher to use in 2024. Fulton, an insoles company, is giving a $10 bonus gift card to customers who place an order from Dec. 23 to Dec. 25. This offer, which Fulton is holding for the first time, is meant for the gift-giver rather than the gift recipient, Libie Motchan, founder of Fulton, told Modern Retail.

“I thought it would be a really relevant offer for these last three days for the last-minute gift givers,” Motchan said. “I also want to see in general how people respond to gift cards, because it’s not something that we’ve pushed super heavily in the past.”