Welcome to The Week in Retail, a weekly roundup for marketers from Quad Insights that covers the latest must-know news surrounding the retail space.

ICSC projects solid holiday season for retailers despite economic headwinds

Echoing other recent holiday sales projections, a new survey from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) has led the global trade organization to forecast a 3.8% increase in retail sales this holiday season (October through December). Coupled with a 7.6% gain in the food and beverage category during that time, ICSC projects total holiday spend to be somewhere around $1.6 trillion.

ICSC’s survey of more than 1,000 consumers demonstrates that, despite concerns about inflation, shoppers expect to spend at a brisk pace, with eight out of 10 saying they plan on spending the same or more than last year. That represents an increase from the 73% of consumers who said the same last year.

“This year’s forecast shows the industry is balancing itself out after rapid growth over the last few years,” ICSC President and CEO Tom McGee said in a statement, “setting retailers up for another successful holiday season.”

ICYMI: Whole Foods releases top 10 food trend predictions for 2024

Whole Foods Market has announced its top 10 food trends for 2024, with nutritional and sustainability concerns dominating the ninth-annual predictions report. Trends expected to gain in popularity over the next year include simplified plant-based products, the use of whole cacao, faux fish products, buckwheat-based foods, enhanced coffee and energy drinks, foods that promote women’s health and a focus on water stewardship and conservation.

The specialty grocer’s Trends Council, a collective of more than 50 Whole Foods Market team members, compiles the predictions report, which provides an opportunity for the grocer to reinforce its position as a “retailer with a keen understanding of emerging food trends,” Food Dive’s Peyton Bigora reports.

Ulta Beauty launches pilot program with SOS to provide in-store sampling, digital advertising

Ulta Beauty announced this week the launch of an in-store advertising and sampling pilot program as part of a partnership with female-founded wellness-on-the-go company SOS to drive in-store product discovery, according to an SOS statement. With smart kiosks that allow members of the retailer’s Ultamate Rewards loyalty program to claim one free sample each week, the pilot seeks to “elevate Ulta Beauty’s in-store sampling program and test its first-ever digital in-store advertising program,” per the statement.

The kiosks, Chain Store Age’s Dan Berthiaume reports, serve “as dynamic, interactive advertising platforms … for sampling awareness, product launches and brand messaging, linked to the retailer’s UB Media network” — Ulta Beauty’s retail media network.

Another goal of the pilot is to “incentivize new member sign-ups,” Berthiaume adds. Non-members can sign up directly at the kiosks to receive their first free sample, which includes a selection of travel-sized products from leading cosmetics, skincare and haircare brands, as well as Rael period-care products.

Ulta Beauty plans to launch the pilot in select locations across 10 U.S. cities in California, Florida, Texas, New Mexico and Massachusetts.

Related news:

“Ulta expands wellness spaces to more than 1,300 stores” (Retail Dive)

Amazon adds Small Business Search filter

Following its move in 2022 to add a badge next to products made by small businesses and artisans, Amazon on Monday rolled out a new search filter to help shoppers more easily find such items on the site, according to reporting from EcommerceBytes’ Ina Steiner. In informing sellers of the new feature, the online retailer noted that the new filter will appear under “business type” in the search filter options “when a customer’s search results include eligible products from small-business brands.”

With Small Business Saturday approaching on Nov. 25, Amazon has noted that any small-business brand that meets the Small Business badge criteria, and has it featured on their products, is also eligible for inclusion in the Small Business Search filter results.

Further reading:

“Anthropologie Collaborates With YoungArts Award Winners on 2023 Holiday Campaign” (Women’s Wear Daily)

“Walmart taps inventory management system to predict demand ahead of holidays” (Retail Brew)

“Grocery stores remain staple destination for holiday shopping” (Winsight Grocery Business)

“Amazon now lets advertisers use generative AI to pretty up their product shots” (The Verge)

• “Kohl’s debuts front-of-store holiday gift shops” (Retail Dive)

“Walmart’s Cultureverse Gives Black Creators a Voice by Design” (Retail TouchPoints)

“Gap launches holiday campaign starring Jay Shetty and Alanis Morisette” (The Drum)

“New AI Supermarket in Atlanta Targets Health-Minded, Time-Strapped Shoppers” (Progressive Grocer)

“Zara owner Iditex to buy recycled polyester from US startup” (Reuters)

“Ugg Promotes Cold Weather Collection With Zero10’s AR Mirror” (Adweek)

“Saks is prioritizing experiences to compete for holiday shoppers” (Glossy)

“Pod Digital Media and Group Black team with Nike to connect brands with HCBUs” (Ad Age)