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Consumer attitudes split on holiday season, shopping

Changing consumer attitudes could change the game for retail, reports NPD.

Consumers are split in their attitudes about holiday shopping. According to the 2019 Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey from The NPD Group, most consumers are looking forward to this holiday season, and see the holidays as a break from everything happening in the world – half even say going out shopping puts them in the holiday spirit. But almost half of consumers that said they would rather plan an outing with family or friends than exchange gifts – more than last year. More consumers also said they think preparing for the holidays may not be worth all of the work entailed.

"There is more of a divide in consumer sentiment heading into this holiday season than we have seen in years," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor, The NPD Group. "There are fewer consumers planning on doing what they did last year, which means retail needs to be prepared to think differently as well."

Consumers plan to spend an average of $740 during the 2019 Holiday shopping season, which is a 7% increase over their anticipated holiday spending last year. However, planned spending is more polarized than it was a year ago, with increases in consumers who plan to spend more than last year, as well as those who plan to spend less.

When, Where, and How

  • Early birds flock, and Black Friday gets bigger. Consumers start their holiday shopping earlier each year. This year, more will start in September (or earlier) and on Black Friday than in 2018.
  • Online is a fixture, but bricks stay strong. More than three-quarters of consumers will shop online this holiday season, but more than half of purchases will be done in-store.
  • Off-Price is on the consumer's radar. While most channels are relatively stable, planned shopping in off-price retailers has significantly increased since last year.
  • Shopping small. 10% of consumers say they plan to shop more "small"/locally-owned retailers.
  • BOPUS picks up. 20% of online holiday purchases will be bought online and picked up in the store.
  • Mobile shopping is on the rise. A quarter of online shoppers will use a smartphone for holiday shopping this year – up from 19% two years ago.

Spending Influencers

  • What's in my wallet? Consumers' personal financial situations are more likely to negatively impact their spending than the state of the economy. The good news is, almost two-thirds of consumers have a positive view of their personal finances – not as many say the same about the economy.
  • Social responsibility matters. A retailer or manufacturer's position on the issues is more likely to have a positive influence than negative. Social issues matter most, while political issues are least important to consumers.
  • Social media persuasion. One in six consumers doing holiday pre-purchase research will use social media. Brands and product reviews are most likely to positively influence a purchase, while celebrities are most likely to do the opposite.

Planned Purchases

  • Gifts you can feel, but not touch. Almost half of consumers plan to purchase intangible gifts this holiday season, and food/beverage experiences and charitable donations top the list.
  • Gifts that keep giving. More consumers plan to purchase a subscription box/service as a holiday gift this year compared to 2018, and beauty/grooming and fashion/apparel boxes are the top types identified.
  • Attention on technology. More consumers are planning on buying tech products than last year, and planning on spending more on it.
  • Investing in fashion. Fewer consumers are planning on buying clothing and accessories, but those who are plan to spend more on it than last holiday.
  • Coming home on a budget. More consumers are planning on buying home products, like appliances and housewares, but they plan to spend less on them than last year.

The Holiday Purchase Intentions Survey is designed to understand consumers' shopping and spending intentions for the upcoming holiday season. An online survey was fielded to members of The NPD Group's online consumer panel in September 2019. The survey was fielded to a U.S. representative sample. The results of 3,485 completed surveys are presented in this report.

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