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U.S. Consumers Plan to Increase Holiday Spending This Year, Supported by Greater Optimism about Personal Finances, Accenture Study Finds

Holiday gift purchases expected to average $718; Consumer enthusiasm for Black Friday shopping hits eight year peak


Amid signs of increased optimism about their personal finances, one-quarter (25 percent) of U.S. consumers plans to spend more on holiday shopping this year compared to 20 percent in 2013, and spending on holiday gifts is expected to average $718, according to Accenture’s (NYSE:ACN) annual holiday shopping survey.
The survey also found consumer enthusiasm for Black Friday shopping has reached its highest level in eight years. Two-thirds of respondents (66 percent) said they are likely to shop on Black Friday, compared to 55 percent who planned to do so in 2013 and 44 percent who said the same back in 2007. In addition, 37 percent plan to shop online during that period using a desktop, mobile device or tablet, which is up from 32 percent in 2013. Plans to shop on Thanksgiving Day and evening rose to 45 percent from 38 percent in 2013. Of those consumers planning to shop on the holiday, 47 percent said that they will be shopping in a physical store between 6 PM Thanksgiving Day and 5 AM on Black Friday.
The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey found that of those consumers planning to spend more this year, 28 percent said they have more discretionary income and 22 percent noted that they have greater job security, up from 15 percent in 2013. Additionally, consumers are planning to allocate a greater share of wallet to holiday shopping than in previous years. For example, of those planning to spend more this year, 47 percent plan to spend $250 or more compared to 40 percent in 2013. Of the 19 percent of consumers who plan to spend less this year, 41 percent said they will reduce the amount they spend by less than $100.
Even though they intend to spend more, holiday shoppers remain keenly focused on discounts and sales. Nearly all respondents (96 percent versus 94 percent in 2013) said that discounts will be important to their purchasing decisions, and more than one in four (29 percent) said that it would take a discount of 50 percent or more to persuade them to make a purchase.
Retailers could also see a shift in sales in the post-holiday season this year, as more than half (57 percent) of consumers plan to purchase gift cards (the top item on consumers’ shopping lists) this year and 17 percent will use gift cards to do their holiday shopping, up from 10 percent in 2013. For example, a gift card may prompt additional sales when the card is redeemed since it is likely that the recipient will spend extra money to buy an item of greater value, versus leaving a balance on the card.  Moreover, by offering an incentive for holiday gift card buyers to make additional purchases or to enroll in their loyalty card program, retailers might be able to convert holiday enthusiasm into a brand relationship that extends throughout the year.
“The holiday shopping season is one of the most competitive times of the year for retailers, but they also have a big opportunity to drive sales and acquire new customers,” said Dave Richards, global managing director, Accenture’s Retail practice. “The majority of retailers look for ways to extend the holiday season as late as possible, but can face challenges in delivering a physical product in time. Personalized promotions and pushing gift cards are a good way for retailers to continue momentum and stretch this success into the post-holiday season.”
When asked how likely they would be to share more of their personal information, such as contact details and preferences, in order for retailers to be able to provide them with personalized and customized offers during the holidays, one-third (33 percent) of consumers said that they would be likely to do so.
Staying Connected: Growing Use and Influence of Mobile and Social Channels for Shopping
As consumers continue to make greater use of laptops, smartphones and tablets, as well as social media, for shopping online, these advanced technologies will play a more prominent role in holiday shopping this year. More than half of consumers surveyed (63 percent) indicated that they will use a laptop or home computer to make purchases or assist in their holiday shopping this season (up 16 percentage points from last year), and 24 percent plan to use a smartphone, up from 18 percent last year. In addition, 13 percent of respondents said they intend to use social networking sites to assist them in their holiday shopping, up from 11 percent in 2013 and 8 percent from 2012.
Furthermore, more than one-third of shoppers (36 percent) said they would shop this year using a mobile phone, smartphone or tablet in-store in order to compare prices, and 21 percent believe that the technology to do that has improved significantly. Additionally, half of survey respondents (50 percent) said that they would be willing to try, would definitely use or are using a service that would enable them to pay using their mobile phone at checkout. At the same time, 44 percent of the survey respondents said that an easy-to-use website would make them more likely to buy holiday gifts online.
When doing their in-store shopping this holiday season, many consumers say they would be willing to use new digital tools. In fact, 71 percent of respondents said they are using, would definitely use or are willing to try out a mobile tool that scans products as they’re placed in a shopping cart and keeps a running tab of the total amount spent. Additionally, 76 percent said they would definitely use or would be willing to try mobile services that provide them with real-time promotions and offers as they shopped in-store if those services were offered.
“Mobility is having a dramatic impact on retail shopping as customers are walking into retail stores with their own smartphones and tablets, which provides them with complete product and pricing transparency,” said Richards. “With over one-third of survey respondents saying they would shop this holiday season using a mobile device in-store in order to compare prices, it is critical for retailers to make it seamless for consumers to trade on mobile applications by incorporating social media and mobile technologies into their stores and multichannel environments. It is more important than ever that retailers switch from a mass-marketing approach to promotions and embrace mobile and other digital tools to deliver more targeted one-to-one offers.”
Consumers Plan Ahead and Get an Early Jump on Buying Holiday Gifts
The survey revealed that 49 percent of consumers had already started, or planned to start, the majority of their shopping in September, well in advance of Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Nearly one-fifth of survey respondents (19 percent) said they had already spent between $100 and $500 on holiday gift purchases by mid-September of this year. One contributing factor could be that over the past three years, the number of consumers who believe the best discounts of the season can be found before Thanksgiving and Black Friday has been rising steadily – to 18 percent in 2014, compared to 14 percent in 2013 and 12 percent in 2012.
The results of the survey further showed that despite some consumers seeing an increase in discretionary income,  rising prices – specifically for food, gas and home energy bills – remain a concern among some consumers and will affect some spending this holiday season. The survey results do indicate, however, that many consumers are planning ahead to pay for their holiday shopping: 57 percent of respondents say they will pay for their holiday purchases with cash they’ve put aside, a small increase from 52 percent last year.
More Customers Want a Smooth Holiday Shopping Experience
Consumers’ interest in a seamless holiday shopping experience across all shopping channels – online, in-store and mobile – is growing, especially when it comes to order fulfillment.
This holiday season, a growing number of consumers (71 percent) plan to participate in “webrooming” – browsing online and then going into a store to make their purchase. While researching online offers consumers many conveniences, checking online to determine if a product is in stock was selected by respondents as their top reason for webrooming (48 percent, up from 42 percent in 2013), followed by being able to touch and feel a product before purchase (46 percent) and the desire to avoid shipping costs (45 percent). At the same time, more shoppers – 68 percent – say they are likely to participate in “showrooming” – going into a physical store to see a product and then searching online for a better price and making their purchase online, which is up from 63 percent in 2013.
Driving consumers to a store through seamless, omnichannel offerings could lead to more sales, according to the survey results. In fact, 57 percent of respondents said they would likely buy items that were not part of their original purchase when they go into a store to pick up merchandise they purchased online and had shipped to the store or use an in-store pickup option.
Shipping issues during Christmas week last year have raised concerns among consumers this year. In fact, nearly half of the survey respondents (49 percent) are concerned about receiving their deliveries from online purchases on time this year, and of those, nearly one out of five (19 percent) are “very” concerned.
“Most retailers are making strides in the order management and fulfillment space, but the concept of flexible fulfillment is not yet mature,” said Richards. “In order for retailers to win over today’s multi-channel shoppers, they need to offer personalized interactions and a consistent multi-channel experience, including flexible fulfillment options. The critical next step for retailers is to figure out how to manage their inventory holistically, and the challenge lies in operating at scale across all channels.”
Among the additional trends highlighted by the survey:
Discount Retailers Prevail, Department Stores Coming up Strong

  • Discount retailers continue to be the top destination for shoppers this holiday season (71 percent).
  • Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they will shop at online-only retailers, compared to 50 percent in 2013 and 44 percent in 2012.
  • Nearly half (47 percent) of consumers plan to buy gifts at department stores this year, up 12 percentage points from 2013.

The Holiday Shopping List
  • Gift cards (57 percent), apparel (56 percent) and toys (42 percent) top consumers’ holiday shopping lists this year.
  • In the electronics category, 13 percent of respondents plan to buy wearable technology such as fitness bands, 24 percent plan to buy home electronics such as a TV or Blu-ray player, 14 percent plan to buy smartphones and 13 percent plan to buy tablets.
  • Fifty-four percent of respondents plan to spend between $11 and $50 on a gift card; gift cards for restaurants, discount retailers and prepaid, multiuse cards are the most popular.

More Trends on Online Shopping and Retailers’ Holiday Programs
  • Overall this holiday season, more than half (51 percent) of shoppers plan to spend 50 percent or more of their total holiday gift dollars online.
  • Free shipping is still the number-one incentive for buying holiday gifts online (69 percent), followed by finding products that are discounted compared to in-store prices (51 percent) and avoiding the crowds and long check-out lines (50 percent).
  • If a retailer sells products both online and in physical stores, consumers prefer to shop online in order to avoid the crowds and to shop around for the best deals; they prefer a physical store in order to touch and feel a product before they buy it.
  • Competitor price-matching on the spot (40 percent), loyalty programs for exclusive deals (35 percent) and purchasing online with in-store delivery/pickup (32 percent) are the top holiday programs and benefits offered by retailers that consumers plan to use, while 19 percent also plan to take advantage of loyalty programs.

Thanksgiving and Black Friday Shopping Plans
  • Of the 61 percent of consumers planning to shop in a physical store on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, the majority (56 percent) are planning to go to three or more stores.
  • Thirty-eight percent of shoppers would shop in-store on Black Friday to take advantage of doorbuster deals.
  • Nearly half (49 percent) believe that the best deals of the season are on Thanksgiving, Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
  • Fewer shoppers than last year (32 percent, down from 41 percent in 2013) said that interfering with family time was a reason to not shop in a physical store on Thanksgiving.

Accenture conducted an online survey using a representative sample of 500 U.S. consumers in September 2014.
About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 305,000 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$30.0 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014. Its home page is
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