NEW YORK; Oct. 18, 2022 — Americans are embracing the holiday spirit and focused on spreading cheer to others, however widespread uncertainty and personal financial strains are prompting consumers to plan for the holidays with greater precision, according to results of the 16th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey from Accenture (NYSE: ACN).
The survey of more than 1,500 U.S. consumers found that the majority (84%) are looking forward to the holidays. Just over half (53%) are looking forward to spending time with loved ones this season, and to treating themselves and others (39%).
“The organized consumer”
Faced with higher costs and a sharpened focus on getting what they need for the holidays, a group of “organized consumers” is emerging and strategizing how to stretch their shopping dollars. Just over one-third (35%) of all consumers said they will try to stick to a holiday budget, and 45% are shopping at different times this year in search of the lowest prices.
The survey also shows that many “organized consumers” pulled out their holiday shopping lists early, with 45% saying that they had already started shopping in August. A small percentage (16%) bought some items in early 2022 to take advantage of last year’s post-holidays sales and discounts.
“In times like this — when prices are rising and merchandise stock levels are fluctuating — consumers feel the volatility and take a long view of the gift giving season to ensure they can enjoy the holiday celebrations,” said Jill Standish, a senior managing director at Accenture who leads its Retail industry practice globally. “To succeed in this market, retailers must pay close attention to data and analytics to identify areas that require increased marketing efforts, as well as targeted and highly customized offers to the different customer segments without eating into profits. Shoppers will reward retailers that focus on delivering a personalized and enjoyable experience when it matters most.”
Winning consumers’ share of wallet
A parallel Accenture survey of 150 retail executives in the U.S. found that retailers are responding by taking steps to win consumer spend. Almost all executives said that increased promotional activity (cited by 99%) and availability guarantees (98%) form part of their company’s plans for the season. Furthermore, 37% said their company is stockpiling goods to ensure supply. A similar number (35%) said their companies are taking special measures or deep discounting to offload surplus stock, and 32% are re-optimizing pricing and promotions.
“Many retailers have excess inventory they need to sell, which will come as welcome news to consumers in search of promotions and deals,” said Lori Zumwinkle, a senior managing director at Accenture who leads Accenture’s Retail industry group in North America. “As the relevance of stand-alone sales events continues to dwindle, retailers must take a long view of the season. This should include a dynamic marketing and promotions plan anchored around existing inventory and then adapted as the crucial trading season ebbs and flows.”
Spreading holiday cheer to others
Despite personal finances being squeezed, consumers are looking for ways to spread holiday cheer through charitable giving.
As in years past, gift cards will be the most popular gift to give this holiday season, with 72% of consumers saying they plan to spend the same or more than last year. There are also signs that consumers are taking the time to get crafty, with more than half (54%) intending to spend the same or more on ingredients or materials for homemade gifts this holiday season compared with last year.
Deck the malls
The survey also highlights how providing additional services could help retailers drive footfall to stores and contribute to positive holiday shopping experiences. For instance, two-thirds (68%) of all consumers — and 88% of older millennials (ages 32-39) — said that services such as an in-store restaurant or beauty salon would entice them to shop with one retailer over another.
Another thing that would entice consumers to shop with one retailer over another is a dedicated in-store area for picking up online orders, cited by two-thirds (68%) of consumers overall — and 90% of older millennials. This is not particularly surprising, given that one-third (32%) of consumers said they are seeing an increase in delivery prices.
“Retailers with physical stores could be set to gain this holiday season as consumers go in search of the perfect gift, the experience of seeing Santa, or the peace-of-mind of picking up items in-store themselves to ensure that have the product in their hands,” Standish said. “Innovative retailers are applying creativity to the store layout to maximize the sales for each square foot of their allocated selling space. One example is creating a live-stream studio to support e-commerce sales or dedicating an area to collect orders. Retailers are also looking for ways to combine staff and technology to ensure that shoppers’ in-store experiences are easy, enjoyable and efficient to navigate.”
About the surveys
The Accenture 16th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey offers insights into consumer buying patterns during the holiday time period, providing an indication of retail performance expectations both on the high street and online at a key time for the sector. For this year’s study, Accenture surveyed a representative sample of 1,508 U.S. consumers online, each of whom had purchased an item for personal use either online or in a store within the previous six months. Respondents were split between gender and across age groups, with 13% of Generation Zers (aged 18-24), 17% younger millennials (25-31), 17% older millennials (32-39), 19% Generation Xers (40-55), 20% baby boomers (56-69) and 15% aged 70+.
A parallel survey of 150 U.S. retail executives was also conducted to explore actions taking by retailers in the run up to the 2022 holiday season, and contrast with consumer expectations. All respondents were US based and worked at Vice President level or above (26% CEO / C-suite, 48% SVP or EVP and 26% VP) for retail companies with annual turnover of more than $1Bn (57% $1-5Bn, 35% $5-20Bn, 8% $20Bn+).
Both surveys were conducted in August and September 2022.
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