10-7-13 10:00 AM EDT | Email Article

U.S. consumers intend to spend an average of $646 on gifts this holiday season, which would represent an 11 percent increase over the $582 they planned to spend, on average, in 2012, according to Accenture’s (NYSE:ACN) annual holiday shopping survey. Additionally, the survey shows that the appeal of Black Friday shopping for consumers has reached a five-year high and Thanksgiving Day has emerged as an established holiday season event. Although they plan to spend more, consumers also will be on the lookout for sizeable discounts throughout the holiday season.

The Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey found that one in five consumers (20 percent) plans to spend more on gifts this year, compared to 14 percent who planned to increase their holiday spending in 2012. They also are more likely to overspend their holiday budget this year (46 percent, compared to 34 percent in 2012). However, holiday shoppers will be keenly focused on discounts and sales: 94 percent said that discounts will be important to their purchasing decisions this holiday season, up from 84 percent in 2012, and 49 percent expect that three-quarters or more of their purchases will be for discounted or sale items.

The survey indicates that the lure of Black Friday as a major shopping event is at its highest level in five years: 55 percent of shoppers say they are likely to shop on this traditional shopping day, compared to 53 percent in 2012, and 44 percent in 2011*. However, a larger proportion of shoppers (30 percent) said they will do most of their Black Friday shopping online, compared to 25 percent in 2012.

At the same time, the survey shows that the growing trend among retailers to open their stores on Thanksgiving Day means that this event is becoming ingrained as a holiday tradition. In fact, 38 percent of shoppers surveyed said they were likely to shop on Thanksgiving. Of those shoppers, 41 percent indicated that they will be out shopping between 6 PM Thanksgiving Day and 5 AM on Black Friday.

Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents said they had already started their holiday shopping or plan to do most of it by the end of November.

“The average dollar spend is trending up, and we are seeing a consumer mindset shifting from ‘cautious’ to ‘sensible,’ which is good news for retailers,” said Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “However, retailers are mindful that during the 2013 Thanksgiving-Christmas shopping period, they will have six days less in which to tempt shoppers through their doors, so many will go big and go early. Thanksgiving Day shopping is now a firm fixture in the holiday season. We will see more stores opening early on that day in order to capture their share of consumer spending. Although retailers’ main draw on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday will be ‘doorbuster’ deals, shoppers will be demanding discounts of 30 percent or more throughout the season.”

Spending Analysis: More Spending More, Fewer Spending Less

According to the survey, fewer consumers expect economic concerns to impact their shopping plans (24 percent, compared to 28 percent in 2012), and only 18 percent indicated that they would spend less than last year, compared to 23 percent in 2012. Nearly two thirds – 62 percent – plan to spend the same as last year (63 percent in 2012).

Of the 20 percent of consumers planning to spend more than last year, one in five (21 percent) intend to raise their spending by $500 or more, and 55 percent said they will increase their spending by $100-$499. Contributing factors behind this spending increase include a willingness among consumers to treat themselves and their families after a tough year (41 percent), and increased discretionary income (37 percent).

When asked to select a word that best described the type of spending they would do this holiday season, U.S. consumers most often chose “sensible.” Additionally, more than half of those surveyed – 52 percent – said they planned to use cash they had saved specifically to pay for holiday gifts.

Online, In-store and More - Consumers Want a Holiday Shopping Experience on their Terms

The survey results indicate that consumers expect to shop seamlessly across in-store, online and mobile channels this holiday season.

The survey indicates that more shoppers – 63 percent vs. 56 percent in 2012 – are likely to participate in “showrooming” this holiday season: going into a physical store to see a product and then searching online for a better price and making their purchase online. However, a similarly high proportion of shoppers (65 percent) also plan to participate in “webrooming,” or browsing online and then going to a store to make their purchase. Survey respondents said that avoiding shipping costs (47 percent) and being able to touch and feel a product before purchase (46 percent) were their primary motivations for webrooming.

Although 42 percent of consumers surveyed plan to spend at least half of their holiday shopping dollars online, they also will be looking to take advantage of store-focused technology-enabled services, such as purchase online with in-store delivery or pick-up (36 percent), and the ability to see up-to-date information on product availability (21 percent).

“To be successful, retailers must be able to satisfy consumers who, more than ever, want to shop on their terms and expect every step in the journey to be a seamless one, whether they are online, shopping in a store or using their phones. The list of consumer expectations of how they should be able to shop – from finding the same prices and promotions in a store as they do online to buying online and returning to a store – is getting longer every day. Increasingly, holiday-season winners will be defined by their ability to deliver a seamless experience to the consumer.”

Thanksgiving Day ‘Doorbusters’ Succeed in Luring Shoppers

According to the survey, U.S. consumers are increasingly embracing the concept of shopping on Thanksgiving Day and evening. Among consumers planning to hit the shops on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday, 38 percent expect to visit four or more stores and more than one-third (36 percent) plan to shop before midnight on Thanksgiving Day.

And for those planning to shop on Black Friday, 32 percent said their primary motivation will be to take advantage of ‘doorbuster’ deals (compared to 26 percent in 2012). One-quarter said ‘doorbuster’ deals would be the lure for shopping on Thanksgiving Day.

Although many consumers will be shopping on Thanksgiving Day, 41 percent of those surveyed said they will not be shopping, since they consider Thanksgiving to be a day for spending time with family.

Big Discounts and Deals Crucial to More Holiday Shoppers in 2013

Despite an expected increase in average holiday spending, the survey indicates that consumers are laser focused on discounts and deals. In fact, 62 percent of respondents said it will take a discount of 30 percent or more to persuade them to make a purchase, compared to 52 percent in 2012.

The survey shows that bargain-conscious U.S. shoppers are tracking prices very carefully. In fact, 39 percent said that if they discover that an item they have already purchased is subsequently offered at a lower price, they would likely return it and repurchase it. Additionally, 45 percent said they plan to use competitor price-matching tools to track prices, and 24 percent said they will take advantage of extended return policies.

Among the additional trends highlighted by the survey:

  • Discount Retailers Remain on Top
    • Discount retailers will remain the top destination for shoppers this season (76 percent).
    • Fifty percent of survey respondents said they will shop at online-only retailers, compared to 44 percent in 2012.
    • A slightly smaller proportion of consumers plan to buy gifts at mainstream department stores this year (35 percent, compared to 39 percent in 2012).
    • 35 percent will shop at specialty retailers, such as toy and clothing chains, and the same proportion (35 percent) will shop at electronic stores.
    • Most consumers planning to buy gifts from department stores, specialty stores, electronics stores and luxury stores plan to make those purchases in-store rather than online.
  • The Holiday Shopping List
    • Gift cards are still number one on consumers’ shopping lists (56 percent), followed by apparel (54 percent), toys (44 percent) and personal electronics (27 percent), including laptops, tablets and smartphones.
    • Also, bigger ticket items saw a rise: 21 percent plan to buy home electronics (compared to 15 percent in 2012), and 19 percent intend to buy home furnishings, such as appliances and furniture (compared to 10 percent in 2012).
    • Two-thirds (67 percent) of consumers said they will buy between one and six gift cards this season, and one-third (33 percent) expect to spend $26-$50 on each card.
    • Gift cards for discount retailers (40 percent) and restaurants (34 percent) will be the most popular gift cards given this year, and 37 percent of respondents said they will purchase their gift cards at the supermarket.
  • Online Shopping
    • 47 percent of online holiday shoppers will make purchases using their PCs or laptops.
    • A growing number of consumers will make purchases or research gifts using their tablets (19 percent Vs. 15 percent in 2012) and smartphones (18 percent Vs. 14 percent in 2012).
    • One-third (33 percent) of those shopping by smartphone said they would use it to compare prices inside the store (compared to 19 percent in 2012), and 28 percent said that privacy and security concerns would deter them from using a phone to shop (compared to 26 percent in 2012).

* The proportion of consumers who stated that they were expecting to shop on Black Friday was 47 percent in 2010 and 52 percent in 2009.


Accenture conducted an online survey using a representative sample of 500 U.S. consumers in September 2013.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 275,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. 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. The company generated net revenues of US$28.6 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2013. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

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