Accenture: In-store holiday shopping to return; average spend to rise

Marianne Wilson
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In the Accenture survey, 70% of digital native Gen Z shoppers say they will do most of their holiday shopping in-store.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, comfort with in-store shopping is set to make a big comeback this holiday season — particularly with a most unlikely group.

More than half (54%) of people overall — and 70% of digital native Gen Z consumers — plan to do most of their holiday shopping in-store this season, according to Accenture’s 15th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey. Surprisingly, 54% of baby boomers anticipate doing most of their shopping online.

In addition, 25% of consumers overall — and 42% of young millennials (ages 24 to 41) — said that shared experiences such as cooking classes, carol singers and children’s play areas could entice them to shop in-store with one retailer over another.

“The events of the last year has compressed into a matter of weeks changes that would likely have taken years,” said Oliver Wright, a senior managing director at Accenture and head of its consumer goods and services industry group globally. “For instance, the pandemic forced older generations to overcome their hesitancy to shop online, an ongoing trend identified by our findings. On the flip side, younger consumers — who are already comfortable online — appear to be seeking out services and experiences that go beyond shopping. “Retailers and consumer goods companies must tap into these behavioral shifts and push forward with their reinvention in order to engage a diverse, multi-generational marketplace of millions of individuals.”

The survey of more than 1,500 U.S. consumers revealed that 34% of consumers overall — and 52% of younger millennials — are worried about stock availability and not being able to buy what they want and need for the holidays. The same number (34%) said they plan to do their holiday shopping earlier this year. Further, 36% of consumers said that they have noticed empty shelves when shopping in-store, and 26% said they have noticed more out of stocks this year when shopping online.

A parallel survey 120 U.S. retail executives in the United States found that 99% said that they have done something differently this year to ensure supply of stock.  And 52% said they’ve taken extraordinary steps to do so.

“Order fulfilment and securing stock will be one of the biggest challenges during the holiday season, while many brands could find themselves short-staffed over the peak period, likely leading to longer lines, emptier shelves—and therefore greater customer frustration,” said Jill Standish, a senior managing director at Accenture and head of its retail industry group globally. “Retailers need to scale up their scenario planning so that they can model for the unpredictability of cross-border delays and the impacts of rising costs on margins and retail prices. This also involves analyzing stock inventory management data to develop different models to respond to spikes in demand and mitigate against expensive out-of-stock scenarios.”

In other findings, consumers are planning to spend, on average, $598 this holiday season, compared with $539 last year. Most (71%) said they intend to spend as much or more than they did last year. Older millennials (32-39 years) anticipate spending $705, on average, the highest among any age group.
Other highlights from the Accenture survey are below.

• Forty-three percent of consumers expect fast and fee delivery on online orders (up from 40% last year), and seven in 10 (70%) of consumers say they could be enticed to shop in-store with one retailer over another if they were able to choose and pay for items in store but have items delivered to their homes.

• One in three consumers will be ditching wrapping paper for environmental reasons this holiday season. Further, 23% will be buying materials and ingredients to give homemade gifts this year and 37% of consumers say that buying “second-hand” apparel is something they are likely to do, rising to 50% for shoppers under the age of 40.

• Seventy-five percent of consumers are planning to buy holiday gifts for close family and 41% plan to buy gifts for neighbors, colleagues and friends. This “generosity of spirit” will likely extend outside the home, as 70% intend to make charitable contributions this year and 21% — rising to 32% among Gen Z and 28% of younger millennials (intend to donate more than they did last year.

• The research also highlights the ongoing desire to support local communities, with 58% of consumers aiming to buy from local and independent retailers.

“Our survey shows that the events of the past year are likely to affect the spending habits of different generations of people this holiday season,” said Standish. “Retailers need to respond by keeping safety protocols in-place and tapping into the shopping temperament in each community they are trying to serve. This requires increased local decision-making assisted by analytics tools to spot changing market conditions and evolving patterns of behavior as they happen.”

For additional insights and findings into the holiday trends, click here.