Holiday Shopping Season to Start Early but Discounts May Disappoint, Accenture Study Finds

Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:00am EDT

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NEW YORK--(Business Wire)--
The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey released today finds that, although
consumers intend to shop early this holiday season, a problem may be in store
for retailers as shoppers fail to find the discounts that they expect. 

"Holiday shopping in 2008 was defined by the huge discounts that were available
- and available very early in the holiday season. In 2009, however, retailers
will be reticent to offer such generous incentives in the face of rising
commodity prices," said Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture`s Retail

The survey of 526 U.S. consumers found that 69 percent of shoppers expect to do
the bulk of their holiday shopping by December 7 (vs. 60 percent in 2008) and
more shoppers will shop on "Black Friday" - the day after Thanksgiving - this
year (52 percent vs. 42 percent in 2008). However, the vast majority of
consumers (86 percent) will not be moved to buy without a discount of at least
20 percent, and a quarter of shoppers will be looking for an aggressive 50
percent discount before they open their wallets. 

"We have seen a `shift to thrift` across all income levels during this economic
downturn and breaking that habit will be the greatest challenge for retailers
this holiday season," Hoffman said. "The winners this season will be the smart
retailers that use the right customer data to offer the `value` shoppers are
looking for without destroying their margins." 

The survey did offer a glimmer of hope for retailers that can deliver the right
deal to consumers. Despite a growing number of consumers who plan to set a
holiday shopping budget (63 percent vs. 54 percent in 2008), the survey shows
that more shoppers admit that they can be enticed into breaking their budgets
(44 percent vs. 40 percent in 2008). The survey also showed that the majority of
shoppers (62 percent) plan to spend more than $250 on holiday gifts this year. 

Discount retailers will attract the most shoppers this season - 85 percent of
survey respondents plan to shop at those stores. At the same time, 45 percent of
the respondents said that they would be shopping at department stores and just 5
percent are planning to shop at luxury goods retailers. 

Consumers have gone cold on "hot" gift items with only 27 percent of respondents
having one on their shopping list this year. Gift cards, on the other hand, are
gaining momentum as nearly four out of five respondents (79 percent) say will be
buying gift cards this holiday season. Troubling for retailers, however, is the
survey finding that 44 percent of gift card recipients will maximize the value
of the card by purchasing discounted items and a quarter (25 percent) will use
their gift cards to buy regular, staple products rather than treating themselves
to something more expensive. This is the exact opposite of the trend of the
previous two holiday shopping seasons. 

Online shopping will continue to offer store stiff competition to more
traditional retailers as nearly two-thirds of consumers (64 percent) intend to
shop online for gifts this holiday season. And, 46 percent of these shoppers
will spend more than half their gift dollars online. Free shipping is the
biggest draw for 35 percent of online shoppers, followed closely by deeper
discounts than stores are offering, according to 27 percent of respondents. 

The survey also revealed that cutbacks were most likely to be made on gifts for
friends (52 percent), extended family (51 percent) and spouses/partners (49
percent). Children (35 percent) and co-workers (35 percent) will be the groups
least likely to receive less this year. 

Among the survey`s other key findings: 

U.S. Consumers Hungry for Big Discounts

* Over a third of shoppers (36 percent) claimed that they would search for and
buy mostly or all discounted items 
* 44 percent of respondents stated they would decide what to buy first and then
search for a store that offers a discount 
* 38 percent of consumers shopping late in the season do so because they expect
better discounts to emerge

Consumers Seek to Control their Spending

* 70 percent will spend the same or more on holiday shopping this year compared
to what they spent last year (vs. 60 percent in 2008) 
* Two-thirds (66 percent) will use only or mostly cash for their holiday
purchases this year 
* 31 percent of consumers using credit cards for holiday purchases expect to
delay payment beyond the first month 
* Negative factors impacting holiday shopping spending this year include
concerns about the economy (62 percent) and a job loss or fear of job loss (41

Gift Cards are a Must-Have, MP3 Players are not

* The gifts that top holiday shopping lists are gift cards (59 percent), apparel
(56 percent) and toys (44 percent) 
* Lower on the shopping list were video games consoles (30 percent), food and
spirits (22 percent) and MP3 players (15 percent) 
* Three-quarters of consumers (76 percent) will spend the same for a gift card
as they would a gift for someone 
* 71 percent of gift card recipients plan to spend their gift card within three
months or less


Accenture conducted an online survey using a representative sample of 526 U.S.
Consumers in September 2009. 

About Accenture

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing
company. 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. With approximately 177,000
people serving clients in more than 120 countries, the company generated net
revenues of US$21.58 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2009. Its home
page is

Ben Payne, +1-703-421-2050
For Accenture
Nancy Goldstein, +1-212-614-4827

Copyright Business Wire 2009

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