Consumers will employ all the tools of modern technology — as well as tough standards for exactly what constitutes a bargain — as they look for the best values during this year’s abbreviated holiday season.
Accenture Inc.’s annual holiday shopping survey, based on online interviews with 500 U.S. consumers conducted during September, revealed consumers are determined to find deep discounts this year. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said it would take a discount of at least 30 percent to coax them into a purchase this year, up 10 points from the 52 percent who responded that way in last year’s poll. Nearly one in four — 23 percent — said they expect a discount of half-off or more if they are to buy, up from 21 percent a year ago.
Their quest for bargains won’t end after the purchase is made — 39 percent said they would likely return or “rebuy” an item if they see it at a lower price after they buy it.
The percentage of those rating discounts as “important” rose to 94 percent from 84 percent in the 2012 study.
For all their determination to be thrifty, the average consumer expects to spend more this year than last, with the average increase standing at 11 percent, to $646 from the $582 estimated spend a year ago.
The percentage of shoppers who intend to spend more than last year rose to 20 percent from 14 last year and 12 percent in 2011, meaning the rise in anticipated expenditures was heavily concentrated among those with more ambitious purchase intentions.
“The expenditures are self-reported but what was interesting to us was that, for the first time in a long time, people were pretty optimistic about holiday,” said Chris Donnelly, global director of Accenture’s retail practice. “They’re going into the season with a better mind-set.”
He acknowledged that, having been conducted before the start of the government shutdown, consumer confidence might not be as robust if the survey were taken today, and also that consumers were generally unaware of the seven-day reduction in shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year compared to last.
“The compressed time frame will create a lot of very aggressive promotion,” Donnelly noted, “and will put a lot of pressure on retailers to ship on time. Neither consumers nor retailers will have the luxury of waiting. Stores will really have to get it right the first time.”
Nearly two in five consumers — 38 percent — said they would shop on Thanksgiving Day this year. Of those, 41 percent expect to be hitting stores or Web sites between 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving and 5 a.m. the next day, Black Friday. Those expecting to shop on Black Friday overall hit a five-year high of 55 percent, up from 53 percent in 2012, and 30 percent of the Black Friday shoppers expect most of their shopping to take place online.
The number planning to “showroom” — browse at a store and then go online, possibly for a better deal — rose to 63 percent from 56 percent a year ago. Those expecting to “Webroom” — browse online and purchase at a store — was 65 percent, with no comparable 2012 data available.
Purchasing intention surveys generally provide more upbeat estimates of consumer behavior than those derived from other economic metrics. In recent weeks, the National Retail Federation estimated that holiday sales would tick up 3.9 percent over 2012 levels and ShopperTrak, a retail traffic-counting firm, said it expects holiday sales to rise 2.4 percent despite a 1.4 percent decline in traffic.
The Accenture study showed across-the-board increases in the use of technology to aid shopping. Nineteen percent said they’d use tablets to purchase or assist in purchasing this year, up from 15 percent last year, while projected mobile and smartphone use rose to 18 percent from 11 percent. Use of social networking sites was planned by 11 percent of respondents, up from 7 percent, while the same percentage said they would use group or member shopping Web sites, such as Gilt or Groupon, up from 10 percent last year.
Only 35 percent said they wouldn’t use personal computers, electronic devices, social media sites or group or member sites to make purchases this holiday season. That’s a far drop from the 68 percent who said they wouldn’t use them last year.