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NRF: Holiday Trends Improving, Less So For CE

11/08/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern

WASHINGTON — While consumers
are beginning to emerge from their financial
funk, portending an uptick in
holiday sales, CE may take a smaller
share of the pie, a new survey suggests.

The poll, the first in a series of holiday
studies conducted by BIGresearch for
the National Retail Federation (NRF),
indicates that shoppers may be more
inclined to splurge this holiday season,
and are increasingly including quality
and customer service in their purchasing
calculus.

But intentions to shop CE specialty
stores remained essentially unchanged
from last year, with 31.3 percent of respondents
citing that channel, while
the number of respondents hoping to
receive a CE-related gift also remained
virtually flat over last year at 33.8 percent,
making it the fourth most popular
category behind gift cards (57 percent),
clothing (48.2 percent), and a catch-all
category including books, music, movies
and video games (47.3 percent).

Yet consumers’ planned holiday
spending will edge up to $688.87 on
average from last year’s $681.83, the
survey showed, while total holiday sales are projected to rise 2.3 percent to
$447.1 billion, compared with flat results
for the 2009 holiday season.

Another sign that shoppers may be
loosening their purse strings is the decline
in the number who said the economy
will impact their spending, to 61.7
percent from 65.3 percent last year.
Also, while 41.8 percent said sales or
price discounts will be most important
when shopping this holiday season, the
number of respondents who counted
customer service as the most important
factor rose from 4.4 percent to 5.3
percent, and the percentage of shoppers
who touted quality as the overriding
factor rose from 11.8 percent to
12.7 percent.

In addition, the number of people
who said they will make a holiday purchase
from a discounter dropped from
70.1 percent last year to 65.1 percent
this year. Conversely, the number planning
to buy online edged up to 43.9
percent from 42.4 percent last year,
making it the only distribution channel
aside from supermarkets and grocery
stores to see an increase.

“Price is paramount during any recession,
but when the economy begins
to recover other factors take on greater
importance,” said BIGresearch’s strategic
initiatives executive VP Phil Rist.
“When shoppers consider other factors
like customer service and quality
in buying decisions, retailers have the
ability to highlight a variety of other features
to help their company stand out
from the competition.”

Added NRF president/CEO Matthew
Shay: “Consumers will still shop
with the economy in the back of their
minds, but we’re starting to see shoppers
take baby steps toward a new
normal. As Americans open up their
wallets for more discretionary gifts like
jewelry or take advantage of sales to
buy for themselves, retailers will begin
to truly believe that the worst may be
behind them.”

Still, many shoppers said they will
compensate for the tough economy by
spending less (81.5 percent), comparison
shopping online (30.9 percent) or
with newspapers and circulars (28.1 percent),
shopping for sales (54.1 percent)
or using more coupons (40.6 percent).

According to the survey, more than
one-fourth of American adults with a
smartphone (26.8 percent) will use
these devices to research or make holiday
purchases, NRF said.

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