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 say 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).
A growing number of consumers also plan to use smartphones this holiday season to look for gift ideas, compare prices and find items in nearby stores. 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, and that number jumps to 45 percent among young adults ages 18 to 24. Retailers are expected to take advantage of this trend by offering more robust mobile apps and websites, along with enhanced features like mobile reviews, to cater to consumers looking to shop from their phones, NRF said.