Accenture holiday survey sees holiday spending flat with last year, online continues to grow

New York City Shoppers will maintain a tight grip on their wallets as they hit the stores this holiday season, with 83% expecting to spend the same or less on holiday gifts compared with 2009, according to the latest Accenture consumer holiday shopping survey. Two thirds of consumers (65%) plan to spend at least $250 on their holiday shopping this year, in line with spending in 2009.

The popularity of shopping online for holiday gifts continues to grow, with 41% of respondents buying at least half of their holiday gifts online and 38% planning to spend between $100 and $250 online.

“The 2010 holiday shopping season will be spectacularly unspectacular for many consumers, but that will suit retailers who remember well the turbulence of Holiday ’08,” said Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “Our data suggests that consumer spending will be flat compared to last year, aided by a continuation of conservative discounting by stores and the limited discretionary income of many shoppers.”

The survey also revealed that discounts will be the key motivator for most consumers this year. The vast majority (93%) of consumers said that discounts and sales for items were either important or very important for their holiday purchases. In fact, 40% said that they would buy all or mostly discounted items (up from 36% in 2009), and only 13% said that they were willing to pay full price to buy specific gifts this year.

The study also highlighted a rise in consumer apathy toward the “Black Friday” shopping tradition. Fifty-three percent of consumers said that they were unlikely to shop on Black Friday, or they have not yet decided (up from 48%  in 2009). Conversely, the popularity of online shopping continues to grow, as 69% of respondents said they will be buying holiday gifts online this year, up from 64% in 2009.

“The increase in the number of homes with broadband Internet access means that many shoppers will prefer to stay at home and bag the offers online rather than brave the crowds,” Hoffman said. Combined with this, over recent years we’ve seen retailers maintain their discounts throughout the season rather than focusing activity around Black Friday.”

In other findings:

 

-- Discount stores will once again be a key destination for shoppers (81% this year). Holiday dollars will also be spread across electronics stores (33%), department stores (44% and specialty stores (36%).

-- Free shipping continues to be the biggest motivation for an increasing number of consumers to shop online.

-- Four out of five consumers (79% ) said that they were likely or very likely to shop more on tax-free shopping days during the holidays if it was offered by their city or state.

-- Forty-seven percent of consumers said they will make sacrifices and cut back on gifts for themselves, while 43% will cut spending on gifts for friends. Consumers are least likely to reduce spending on their children (24%).

-- Gift cards (56%), apparel (57% ) and toys (41%) will be the most popular choices for gifts this year.  

-- One surprising statistic in this year’s holiday survey is the low number of consumers planning to buy the hot technology items of the year as holiday gifts. Only 4% expect to buy a tablet computer and just 7% have an e-reader on their shopping list.

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