October 24, 2012

Disciplined U.S. Consumers Have Saved for Holiday Shopping This Year, but Will Seek Value for Their Dollar, Accenture Survey Finds

Black Friday Popularity Bounces Back; Consumers Willing to Shop on Thanksgiving Day

Retailers Face Off Against Holiday ‘Showrooming’ – a “Very Real Phenomenon”

NEW YORK; Oct. 24, 2012 – The majority of U.S. consumers – 51 percent – have already made their holiday shopping plans this year and say they will be buying gifts with cash that they have set aside specifically for the holidays, according to Accenture’s (NYSE: ACN) annual consumer holiday shopping study.

The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey shows that consumers are expected to spend an average of $582 on holiday shopping this season, and 23 percent plan to spend more than $750. Half (52 percent) expect to increase their spending by $250 or more. However, only 5 percent say they expect to be “extravagant” in their holiday shopping, and only 8 percent said they would “splurge”.

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

“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. They will have a desire to maximize the value of their dollar and a hunger for discounts, 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.”

‘Showrooming’ will be a key factor

The majority of shoppers (56 percent) say they are likely to participate in “showrooming” this holiday season, which means that after seeing a product in a physical store, they would search online for the best price and then purchase online. 27 percent 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; however, retailers can compete with, and even beat, the online 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.”

Spending pressure eases to give consumers a more positive outlook; rising prices still a concern

Accenture’s survey offers evidence that pressure on consumers’ finances may be easing as fewer people are planning to cut back on spending for themselves (40 percent, compared to 46 percent in 2011 and 52 percent in 2010).

Further, out of the 63 percent of consumers who expect to spend the same on their holiday shopping this year, the survey indicates a more positive outlook than last year. 24 percent of those consumers say they are spending the same because living expenses have increased, compared to 34 percent in 2011. Also, fewer consumers have concerns about the economy (23 percent, compared to 30 percent in 2011), and fewer believe that they have less discretionary income this year (30 percent, compared to 34 percent in 2011).

At the same time, consumers still have concerns about higher bills hitting their wallets hard; 45 percent cite high gasoline prices, and 38 percent mention food prices, as factors that would negatively affect their holiday spending.

Shoppers are better prepared for holiday spending

The survey shows that shoppers are better prepared for their spending this holiday season than they were in 2011. Half (51 percent) say they will be paying for their holiday shopping with cash put aside for that purpose, compared to 45 percent in 2011. And, fewer shoppers plan to use either a major credit card to pay for their holiday purchases this year; 33 percent in 2012 compared to 47 percent in 2011. However, 26 percent of respondents said that the desire not to increase their credit card debt would negatively impact their holiday spending this year.

“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.”

Discounts and promotions still important to shoppers

Discounts and promotions on holiday gift items remain a driver for the vast majority of shoppers, cited by 82 percent as important, a slight decrease to the 93 percent who said the same in 2011. Three quarters of respondents (78 percent) say that at least half of their holiday shopping purchases will be discounted items, and half (50 percent) will be looking for a discount between 20 – 40 percent off the original product price.

The retail environment is still heavily promotional, and that is the default setting for most retailers,” said Donnelly. “However, the difference this year is how early, and how hard, some retailers have punched the promotion button. Discounts of 30 percent or more have been available since October 1, and that will set the tone for this season.”

Online shopping: Tablet and smartphone shopping on the rise

According to the survey, the use of tablet computers and smartphones to make holiday purchases is on the rise. In fact, 25 percent of consumers intend to use these devices to buy holiday gifts, compared to 17 percent in 2011. The top reason cited for using a tablet computer or smartphone for holiday shopping is to compare prices while in a store.

One third (34 percent) of respondents say that they are likely to shop on “Cyber Monday” – the first Monday after Thanksgiving, which is part of a campaign by retailers to encourage consumers to shop online. Free shipping offered by retailers that day is the key draw for 45 percent of shoppers, while 40 percent believe that this is the day to bag the best online deals. However, more than 37 percent of consumers planning to shop on Cyber Monday are doing so simply to avoid the crowds.

More than half (54 percent) 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 percent of respondents.

Discount retailers lead the way

Discount retailers will remain the most popular destination for the vast majority of U.S. consumers this holiday season, according to the survey. Three quarters (75 percent) of shoppers say they will be buying gifts at discount retailers, up slightly from 73 percent in 2011. Online-only retailers are continuing to grow in popularity (44 percent, compared to 41 percent in 2011). 39 percent of consumers said they will be buying gifts at mainstream department stores, the same proportion as 2011.

One quarter planning to shop between Black Friday and the end of November

Nearly one quarter of U.S. consumers (23 percent) plan to shop during the period from Black Friday until the end of November, an increase from 19 percent who said they would shop in that time frame in the 2011 survey.

Almost half (47 percent) believe that the best discounts will be available on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, whereas 29 percent expect that they will need to hold out until the week leading up to Christmas in order to get the best holiday bargains.

Holiday shopping lists: gift cards and clothing still at the top, toys and tablets make gains

Apparel (51 percent) and gift cards (52 percent, down from 57 percent in 2011) will be at the top of holiday shopping lists again this year. Kids will also have something to cheer about as 38 percent of consumers plan to purchase toys. 16 percent of people will be looking to buy a smartphone or a tablet as a gift this year. Also, 11 percent of people said they will be giving charity donations as gifts this year.

Gift cards to be spent on treats not everyday items

One quarter of consumers (24 percent) expect to buy four to six gift cards this year for their friends and relatives. Gift cards from discount retailers were the top choice (36 percent), followed by gift cards from restaurants (25 percent). 56 percent say that they expect to buy a gift card from the retailer where it will be used, while 33 percent said they will also purchase gift cards from the supermarket.

The study also shows a change in how consumers intend to spend their gift cards, with more likely to use the cards to treat themselves to something they would not ordinarily buy (38 percent, compared to 34 percent in 2011). Fewer consumers say that they are less likely to use gift cards for everyday items (19 percent, compared to 23 percent in 2011).


Accenture conducted an online survey using a representative sample of 500 U.S. consumers in October 2012.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with 257,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$27.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2012. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

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Matt Samuel


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