Holiday survey: ‘Disciplined shoppers’ seeking value; Black Friday popularity bounces back

New York -- Consumers are expected to spend an average of $582 on holiday shopping this season, and 23% plan to spend more than $750, according to a survey by Accenture. And half of consumers (52%) expect to increase their spending by $250 or more.

The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey finds that shoppers are better prepared for their spending this holiday season than last year. Half (51%) say they will be paying for their holiday shopping with dedicated cash, compared to 45% in 2011. And, fewer shoppers plan to use either a major credit card to pay for their holiday purchases this year; 33% in 2012 compared to 47% in 2011.

“The U.S. consumer refuses to be counted out and is entering this holiday season better prepared and more willing to open his or her wallet,” said Chris Donnelly, managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “Self-sacrificing will be down and spending will be slightly up, however, our research also shows that shoppers will remain disciplined in their spending.

Consumers will be looking for discounts as they seek to maximize the value of their dollar this holiday season, which will put pressure on retailers’ profits and margins.

“Retailers need to focus on creating in-store excitement, providing standout products and services, and delivering a seamless experience regardless of which shopping channel the customer uses,” Donnelly said.

This year’s survey also found that half (52%) of consumers would be willing to shop online on Thanksgiving Day if retailers offer discounts, and 53% plan to shop on Black Friday, which would reverse a three-year trend of declining interest as indicated by Accenture’s previous surveys. In 2011, the survey showed that only 44% of respondents were interested in shopping on Black Friday, down from 47% in 2010 and 52% in 2009.

One third (34%) of respondents say that they are likely to shop on “Cyber Monday.” Free shipping offered by retailers that day is the key draw for 45% of shoppers, while 40% believe that this is the day to bag the best online deals

Fifty-six percent say they are likely to participate in “showrooming” this holiday season; and 27% of these same shoppers say they would likely make the purchase online, using their smartphone or tablet, while they are still out shopping.

“Showrooming is a very real phenomenon; howeve, retailers can compete with, and even beat, the on pure play retailers,” said Donnelly. “Consumers don’t just want to shop online; they want a simple and seamless shopping experience that offers them convenience and value. As recent announcements have shown, some traditional retailers are starting to tackle showrooming head-on this holiday season with tactics such as price matching against their online competitors but they must also strengthen their customer service and product availability in order to really fight back.”
The study finds that the retail environment is still heavily promotional. Discounts and promotions on holiday gift items remain a driver for the vast majority of shoppers, cited by 82% as important, a slight decrease to the 93% who said the same in 2011.

Three quarters of respondents (78%) say that at least half of their holiday shopping purchases will be discounted items, and half (50%) will be looking for a discount between 20% to 40% off the original product price.

“The research illustrates a shift in U.S. consumers’ approach to their holiday spending,” said Donnelly. “Many consumers are still struggling to balance their household budgets, at the same time that pay raises and bonuses remain in short supply, and they are realizing that this is not a short-term phenomenon. Consumers will remain resistant to the impulse purchase, and retailers will have to work harder to secure that extra spend by having a unique product, service or experience, and being clear on the value to the customer.”

  • The use of tablet computers and smartphones to make holiday purchases is on the rise. In fact, 25% of consumers intend to use these devices to buy holiday gifts, compared with 17% in 2011. The top reason cited for using a tablet computer or smartphone for holiday shopping is to compare prices while in a store.
  • More than half (54%) of shoppers say they would choose to shop online if a retailer offered the same product both online and in a physical store. The desire to avoid crowds is the driver behind this preference for 30% of respondents.
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