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Online, Mobile Shoppers May Keep Retailers' Spirits Bright: Deloitte

11/07/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

NEW YORK — The sluggish economy
and rising household expenses
are casting a chill over consumer
confidence, but not enough to bring
back the ghost of recessions past,
according to Deloitte’s 26th annual
survey of holiday spending intentions
and trends.

While two-thirds (67 percent) of
consumers expected the economy
to stay the same or weaken next year,
nearly three out of five (59 percent)
will put aside economic worries and
spend the same or more this holiday
season. This is a slight decline from
2010 but an 8 percentage point increase
from 2009.

Shoppers planning to spend less
this year (42 percent) pointed to
higher costs impacting their household
budgets. Six out of 10 cited
higher food prices (63 percent) and
higher gas prices (60 percent) as
reasons for spending less this year.
Roughly half (49 percent) pointed to
higher energy costs.

“Lackluster employment growth,
debt crises and stock market fluctuations
have battered consumer
confidence while inflation left many
with lighter wallets this fall,” said
Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S.
retail and distribution leader, Deloitte.
“Consumers will be conservative this
holiday season, but remain resilient
and maintain a more positive interest
in holiday shopping than we witnessed
during the recession.”

With high prices leaving less in the
household budget for other things,
many consumers are re-evaluating
gift-giving this year. Holiday shoppers
planned to buy an average of
14.7 holiday gifts this year, down
from 16.8 last year and continuing
a four-year decline in the number of
gifts they plan to purchase.

Higher-income households’ gift
spending will hold up while middleand
lower-income groups are paring
back. Households earning $100,000
or more annually expected to trim a
mere 2 percent off gift spending to
shell out an average of $812 on gifts
this holiday season compared with
a 26 percent drop to $291 on gifts
among those earning less.

Despite smaller budgets, consumers
may make the gifts more personal
as more shoppers skip gift cards and
cash this year. Consumers planning
to purchase gift cards (45 percent)
fell 11 percentage points to unseat
this category’s seven-year reign at
No.1 and elevate clothing (48 percent)
to the top spot. The number
who planned to hand out cash slid 7
percentage points to just 25 percent.

Deal-seekers are increasingly using
online channels to get the most
value. Nearly seven out of 10 (68 percent)
of consumers plan to change the
way they shop to save money, and more
than half in this group (51 percent) will
head online to find better prices. This represents
a 10 percentage point jump from
last year, while 46 percent planned to buy
more items that qualify for free shipping.

Among shopping destinations, the Internet jumped 13 percentage points
to join discount stores at the top of
the list with nearly half (48 percent)
of consumers planning to shop these
two destinations for holiday gifts.
While online interest climbed, discounters
slid 10 percentage points
from the 2010 survey.

More than one-quarter (27 percent)
of smartphone owners planned
to use their devices for holiday shopping
to search for store locations (67
percent), compare prices (59 percent)
and check product availability
(46 percent). Additionally, 44 percent
said they planned to use social media
to seek discounts, read reviews and
check family and friends’ gift lists.

Fifty-three percent of consumers
planned to begin shopping before
Thanksgiving, but 73 percent
intended to hold out until after this
holiday to make the majority of their
purchases.