Commentary

How Retailers' Holiday Results May Affect Publishers

Home Depot was among a handful of retailers that provided a disappointing revenue outlookyesterday. That is somewhat worrisome, but not necessarily fatal for publishers that sell media to major retailers.

American Eagle Outfitters, Children's Place and GameStop also had grimmer outlooks, but each of these mall-dependent retailers has problems that don't necessarily reflect poorly on the broader economy. 

Home Depot is one of the 10 biggest advertisers in the retail industry; it is heavily promotional during the holiday season, when people are shopping for power tools and other gifts for DIYers. Walmart, Target, Amazon, Macy's and Kohl's were the only retailers to surpass Home Depot in holiday-season spendinglast year, according to data compiled by Kantar.

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Home Depot's outlook may be isolated, as other estimates of holiday shopping indicate stronger growth since last year, particularly among online retailers. In addition, media spending trends before the holidays were strong.

Kantar observed a 4% gain in media spending among retailers during the first half of the year, but that trend doesn’t apply to all media outlets equally. Print media's share of retailer ad spend during the winter holiday period was cut in half — from 26% in 2014 to 14% last year — a crushing decline.

Print media brands likely benefited from growth of their digital properties. Digital expanded its share of retailer ad spend to 25% during last year's holidays — from 8% in 2014, according to Kantar. However, digital media is dominated by Google and Facebook.

It will be interesting to see more data about holiday ad buys, especially among programmatic platforms that can quickly shift spending among the digital properties of publishers. There are still more shopping days ahead, and the first evidence of shifts in promotional activities will be seen on digital platforms.

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