Sales Promotions, Product Availability and Fair Prices Helped Holiday Shoppers Beat Economic Blues, Accenture Study Finds

NEW YORK; Jan. 15, 2004 – Sales promotions, well-stocked shelves and reasonable prices helped holiday shoppers in the U.S. and U.K. overcome any lingering doubts about whether to open their wallets in an uncertain economy, according to a study released today by Accenture.

The survey of nearly 1,300 shoppers, conducted from December 22 - 29, found that about two-thirds of respondents (65 percent) said they spent the same as or slightly more than they did last year on holiday purchases. Forty percent of all respondents reported spending $500 or more on holiday gifts this year, while 37 percent spent $200 – $499. U.K. respondents mirrored this spending pattern.

In-store sales were a big driver of shopping traffic, with 79 percent of respondents saying their purchasing choices were either very or somewhat influenced by retailers’ promotions.

“After years of deep discounts, shoppers have been ‘trained’ to expect sales,” said Jeff Smith, global managing partner, Accenture Retail & Consumer Goods practice. “This year, retailers seemed to have offered a winning combination of sales, prices and selection.”

A large majority (89 percent) of respondents said all or many of the items they were looking for in stores were in stock and available for purchase, and 86 percent said they found that prices were what they expected or more reasonable than they expected. About a third (35 percent) said they would have bought more if prices had been better, and 18 percent said more interesting products might have prompted them to buy more.

"To maintain shoppers’ interest in the year ahead, high performance retailers will take several important lessons from this holiday season," Smith said. "These include: being brilliant at the basics -- making sure items are in stock, stores are clean and distribution/shipping; investing in technology to deliver personal, customized service to customers; and continuing to meet shoppers demand for multiple sales channels."

According to survey respondents, Web sites continued to offer an alternative shopping venue. Twenty-eight percent said they shopped online the same amount as last year. Of those shoppers who used online stores more than last year, convenience was the main reason (79 percent), followed by avoiding crowded malls (59 percent). More than half (56 percent) of these respondents said they found better prices online. Slightly more than half (53 percent) said they did not increase their online shopping this year over last. When asked why they did not go online for holiday shopping, they cited a preference for physical stores, shipping charges and concern about credit card fraud.

On another bright note for bricks-and-mortar retailers, 65 percent of respondents reported that they spent most of their money in physical stores. The Internet followed, at 25 percent, with catalogs a distant third, at 5 percent. Moreover, almost two-thirds (63 percent) said stores were staffed well or had staff who could help them.

The survey, fielded from December 22 to December 29, 2003, entailed querying 725 respondents from the U.S. and 558 from the U.K.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills, and technologies to help clients improve their performance. With approximately 86,000 people in 48 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$11.8 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2003. Its home page is