Retailers ride higher sales while TV advertising spikes during busy holiday shopping season

In November, the National Retail Federation (NRF) predicted November and December retail sales would advance between 6% to 8% – a stark contrast to a record-breaking 13.5% increase in 2021. 

Given the average retail sales increase over the past decade has been about 5%, the NRF’s prediction highlights consumer’s resilience to continued economic uncertainty. So, despite the year-over-year drop, retail sales remain deceivingly strong in 2022. 

Still, retailers are struggling to cope with the fallout of last year’s supply chain issues, having stockpiled inventory in anticipation only to be met with decreased demand and increased markdown pressure. At their busiest time of year, brands are in desperate need of solutions to get their TV ad campaigns heading in the right direction, as they try to answer questions like:

  • Which of my brand’s in-flight holiday creatives are performing best right now?
  • In what types of programming does my holiday campaign engage the most TV viewers?
  • Are Black Friday-specific campaigns worth the investment?
  • What can my brand learn from our industry’s top-performing creatives as we close out the year? 

To shed some light on these queries and others, EDO compiled the top stats of the retail holiday season thus far.

Black Friday campaigns from Macy’s and Target see higher engagement

Department store ads accounted for about one-quarter of all retail ads in Q4 the last two years, generating roughly half the category’s consumer engagement. The subcategory has invested an estimated $280 million in TV ads during Q4 this year, as compared to the next highest spender – Home, Office, and Electronics with an estimated $150 million. 

Department stores (Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target, and Walmart), on average, launched their first holiday creatives on November 1 this year, two days earlier than they did in 2021. The subcategory had 49 holiday creatives air through November 16 last year, versus 59 this year. 

Despite a 17% decline in holiday campaign ad spend year-over-year, Macy’s holiday ads have generated 12% more search for the brand this year compared to the same time last year. The greater holiday campaign impact with lower overall spend is a result of strong creative decisions.

The most-aired holiday creative for Macy’s this year, Give Love, Give Style (Extra 30% Off), was 51% more engaging than the brand’s average Q4 2022 creative. Across the brand’s holiday campaign, viewers were 10% more engaged with Macy’s holiday ads this year compared to its holiday campaign a year ago. 

Less spend for more engagement? Now that’s what we call a holiday deal.

Target also switched up its Black Friday strategy this year and began promoting its Black Friday deals beginning in October, over 6 weeks earlier than its first Black Friday promotion on national TV in 2021. This strategy has served the brand well, as Target holiday ads featuring a Black Friday deal outperformed the brand’s holiday ads without Black Friday deals by 58% this year.

Santa’s other favorites: Sporting goods, specialty, subscription, and more

Outside of department stores – sporting goods, specialty stores, and subscription boxes generated the most buzz in the retail category this holiday season. 

The sporting goods stores (+122%) subcategory had one of the biggest jumps in consumer search year over year. Golf and Tennis brands were well represented, with advertisers including Golf Galaxy, Golfballs.com, Tennis Express, and Tennis Warehouse advertising in Q4 over the last two years.

Dick’s Sporting Goods generated three times as much consumer search as last year, and its 2022 creatives outperformed the average retail ad for the quarter by 16% – likely a result of their new campaigns with sports personality Kay Adams and basketball legend Charles Barkley

EDO captured about 30 specialty store advertisers on national linear TV this year, with metrics up across the board – 9% increase in airings; 13% increase in impressions; and an impressive 31% increase in consumer search — with only a 7% increase in estimated spend.

Subscription boxes advertisers like Bespoke Post, ShoeDazzle, and Stitch Fix have the best performing creatives in the entire retail category in Q4 this year. Subscription box ads outperform the average retail category ads by 108% in 2022 – whereas, in 2021, they performed on par with the average ad. This is despite subcategory advertisers airing about half as many airings as last year (7,700 versus 3,600) and a resulting 30% decrease in the raw number of searches for the category.

Wrapping up the retail holidays

The retailers who have seen the most success during the holiday season (so far) are those who began advertising early and made smart inventory decisions about the role of the creative throughout. Macy’s and Target have been two major players in Black Friday sales for years, and they continue to excel with creative and thoughtful campaigns. This year also saw an uptick in sales for sporting goods, specialty items, and subscriptions – thanks in part to a more focused spending from these companies. 

No matter what you’re promoting, there’s a way to capitalize on the holiday shopping frenzy. By planning your TV campaigns against what has and hasn’t worked for your industry, you can ensure a successful end to the year for your business.

There’s still time for your marketing team to make Santa’s nice list. Request a demo or check out more from EDO to help your target audience find the gifts they need this holiday season.