American Consumers Plan for a Merry and Bright 2009 Holiday Season

Tue Sep 8, 2009 11:20am EDT

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

New IRI Research Shows Increased Optimism and Savvier Shopping Rituals from 2008
CHICAGO--(Business Wire)--
American consumers plan to enter this year`s holiday season more hopeful,
resulting in consumer confidence to selectively open their wallets wider than
the 2008 holiday season, according to new research from Information Resources,
Inc. However, consumers are taking a more strategic approach to shopping this
year and are heading into stores with shopping lists in hand and a budget in

IRI surveyed approximately 1,000 households about their 2009 holiday shopping
rituals and discovered other shifts in consumer behavior, such as the
consumption of meals and beverages at home, purchasing private label, and
bargain hunting, will also continue this holiday season. 

"While consumers are beginning to awaken from the economic sea change just in
time for the beginning of the holidays, they are taking very thoughtful and
strategic approaches to their purchasing and are sifting hard through such
questions as `What do I really need?`, `What does my family need?`, and `What
can we still live without?`" said IRI Consulting & Innovation President Thom
Blischok. "Despite what appears to be a permanence of `strategic selection,`
last year`s dismal holiday retail results are being left behind as consumers are
slightly more optimistic about the economy and are much more savvy about how
they attack their holiday gift and meal list." 

Brightening Attitudes Bring More Joy Around the Fireplace

Consumer attitudes and concerns surrounding gas prices, cost of utilities, job
stability, the rise in food prices, and the recession are all seeing a decline
in how these factors will affect this year`s holiday shopping rituals.
Consumers` holiday shopping rituals will be less affected by economic factors
than last year, especially regarding the price of food. Principal survey
findings include:

* Consumers concern about the price of food has dropped more than 20 percent
this year (98 percent in 2008 versus 77 percent in 2009). 
* Expressed concern for the effect of gasoline prices on holiday shopping has
dropped by 10 percent compared to 2008. 
* Utilities saw a similar decline, down more than 9 percent from 2008. 
* The overall effect of the recession on shopping decisions decreased nearly 5

However, consumer concern regarding job stability still remains top of mind and
saw only a 1 percent decline, showing that while consumers may be more in the
holiday spirit they still hold concerns about the downturn. Consumers are not
expected to give up their focus on conservative spending by creating tremendous
credit card balances. Instead, they have learned about how to more effectively
spend their dollars. 

Faith, Family, and Friends Remain Priorities

One consistency from last year`s holiday season is the values American consumers
continue to hold dear during the recession. Religion, spending time with family,
and communal holiday meals remain important to the shopper, notably:

* More than 81 percent of consumers note religion as a major factor in their
holiday celebrations. 
* More than 98 percent of shoppers make spending time with family a priority in
the holiday season. 
* 93 percent of consumers` holiday plans include getting together with family
and friends over the dinner table and at parties. 
* More than 90 percent of shoppers are making gift-giving a priority, up nearly
3 percentage points from last year.

Setting the Holiday Table - Making a List, Checking it Twice

The dining room lights will shine bright this holiday season as American
consumers, in keeping with their focus on spending time with friends and family,
will consume most of their meals and beverage consumption at home or at a
friend`s house. Nearly two-thirds of consumers plan to eat their holiday meals
at home, half plan to dine at their friends` homes and holiday parties, and
almost all plan to consume alcoholic beverages in their friends` homes or
holiday parties. 

While this holiday ritual of communal eating and drinking will continue to be a
form of comfort and celebration this holiday season, it is also a cost-cutting
strategy and a major contributing factor to why consumers note that they plan to
spend the same or less this year than in 2008 on holiday meals. More than 94
percent plan on spending no more than $500 on food and 90 percent plan on
spending no more than $200 on holiday beer, wine, and spirits purchases. 

To help prepare for the holiday gatherings, dollar-stretching techniques, such
as list-making and private label, continue to be top of mind for shoppers. Only
11 percent of consumers mention they will shop without a grocery list. 

Critical growing points resulting from the downturn, private label is expected
to again take a seat at the head of the holiday table as 90 percent of consumers
make private label food an important part of the holiday meal, up from 87
percent in 2008. 

Grocery stores are expected to remain busy with shoppers piling in their private
label selections in their grocery carts. Survey findings include:

* Budgeting (79 percent) and matched quality to name brands (60 percent) remain
leading reasons for the switch to private label. 
* 92 percent of consumers will be doing their holiday food shopping at the
grocery store based on sales and discounts, product selection, and variety of
items in stock.

Smarter Gift-Giving

Shoppers are showing their gift-giving joy this year and are using the budgeting
expertise they`ve learned in the past year. While consumers may be spending
less, they are finding inexpensive splurges. Insights from the survey show

* 77 percent of consumers will be treating themselves, and others, this holiday
season even if times are tough. 
* 23 percent of shoppers have a gift-giving budget over $799, down 13 percent
from 2008. 
* 11 percent more plan on budgeting up to $499 this year for gifts than in 2008.

* 71 percent of consumers will not be giving food as gifts this year, removing
fruitcakes from the gift list.

These consumers will be buying their gifts at mass merchandisers like Target
(more than 77 percent) and department stores (65 percent), seeking the best
deals on electronics, such as iPods, $100 Blu-ray disc players and other
assorted electronic gadgets expected to be a "gift of choice" in many
familiesthis holiday season. Notably, only 18 percent will be making their gift
purchases without a shopping list. 

A Green, E-Holiday Shopping Season

More Americans will be shopping online during this holiday season. Flexibility
of time to shop, saving time, and avoiding crowds are all major draws that get
consumers` dollars online, but only for gift-giving. Survey highlights show:

* 18 percent increase in online shopping from 2008, when only 41 percent of
consumers shopped online. 
* 90 percent of shoppers will not be making their food purchases online,
choosing to buy in-store.

"In addition to a renewed sense of consciousness about their budgets, we can
expect shoppers to be eco-conscious this holiday season as they look to reduce
waste in their households by using low-power lighting, recyclable packaging,
smaller outdoor displays and pre-lit recyclable Christmas trees," added

Seasonal Shopper Strategies

Retailers and CPG manufacturers can still position themselves to take advantage
of this cheerier, savvier consumer during the holiday. Nearly half of consumers
don`t plan on starting their holiday shopping until after summer draws to a
close, allowing CPG and retail to plan their holiday sales strategies that are
in tune with consumers` desire to save money, spend time with friends and
family, and treat the ones they love. 

Important considerations include that consumers are making their purchase
decisions in-home, requiring a savvy marketing and redesigned shopper value
strategy. CPG and retail must act now in order to ensure that they win over the
holiday and budget-minded shopper, avoiding delay in order to stay competitive
and attuned to the shifting consumer market. 

"The consumer has shifted dramatically in the past year with how they find and
purchase their deals-CPG and retail need to take advantage of this newly savvy
shopper by appealing to shopper values and budgets," said Blischok. "The
holidays are a prime opportunity to draw the newly optimistic shopper into the
store and to new products, but these actions and strategies must be swift and
efficient, especially as shoppers continue making purchase decisions in their

IRI Holiday Webinar

IRI is offering a free webinar, entitled "The 2009 Holiday Consumer: Optimism on
a Budget," on Sept. 15 at 1 p.m. CDT. To register for the webinar, hosted by
consumer trends and transforming economy experts, Thom Blischok, Tim Ressmeyer
and Sean Seitzinger, please visit:
The webinar will highlight findings from an upcoming special research report for
the 2009 holiday season that will be available in mid-September. 

About Information Resources, Inc.

Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) is the world`s leading global provider of
consumer, shopper, and retail market intelligence and insights, empowering
consumer packaged goods (CPG), retail, and healthcare companies to grow their
business profitably in a complex marketplace. Driving breakthrough growth in the
industries it serves, the company`s portfolio of services, solutions, and
technology enable leading retailers and their suppliers around the globe to see
what they are missing, act faster with greater confidence, and win at the shelf.
Ninety-five percent of the FORTUNE Global 500 in CPG and retail leverage IRI to
power their business. For more information, visit: 

John McIndoe
Phone: (312) 474-3862
Fax: (312) 474-2512
Shelley Hughes
Phone: (312) 474-3675
Fax: (312) 474-2512 

Copyright Business Wire 2009

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