Study: Holiday shopping launches early, discounts disappoint

New York City A shopping survey released Wednesday found that although shoppers plan to start their holiday shopping earlier than the norm, they may be disappointed in the discounts they find in-store.

The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey, which queried 526 consumers, found that 69% of shoppers expect to do the majority of their holiday shopping by Dec. 7 (up from 60% a year ago) and 52% will shop on Black Friday (up from 42% in 2008).

However, 86% said it will take at least a 20% discount to motivate a purchase, and 25% of shoppers will be looking for an aggressive 50% off.

“Holiday shopping in 2008 was defined by the huge discounts that were available -- and available very early in the holiday season. In 2009, however, retailers will be reticent to offer such generous incentives in the face of rising commodity prices,” said Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice.

The survey did offer hope for retailers that can deliver the right deal to consumers. Despite a growing number of consumers who plan to set a holiday shopping budget (63% versus 54% in 2008), the survey found that more shoppers admit that they can be enticed into breaking their budgets (44% versus 40% in 2008). The survey also showed that 62% intend to spend more than $250 on holiday gifts this year.

Discount retailers will attract the most shoppers this season -- 85% of survey respondents plan to shop there. At the same time, 45% said they would be shopping at department stores and just 5% are planning to shop at luxury goods retailers.

Seventy-nine percent of consumers said they will be buying gift cards this year. However, 44% of gift-card recipients will maximize the value of the card by purchasing discounted items and a 25% will use their gift cards to buy regular, staple products rather than treating themselves to something more expensive. This is the exact opposite of the trend of the previous two holiday shopping seasons, according to Accenture.

Nearly two-thirds of consumers (64%) intend to shop online for gifts this holiday season. And 46% will spend more than half their gift dollars online.

The gifts that top holiday shopping lists are gift cards (59%), apparel (56%) and toys (44%).

Lower on the shopping list were video games consoles (30%), food and spirits (22%) and MP3 players (15%).

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