Holiday shopping

The 13th annual holiday shopping survey from Accenture, released today, finds most U.S. shoppers expect to spend at least as much on the holiday season as last year. There does appear to be a significant level of consumer caution with the percentage of survey respondents who anticipate spending less this year rising to 15 percent from 11 percent in 2018.

And a majority of consumers said receiving vintage or “previously loved” apparel and accessories would be just fine this holiday season.

Similar to findings in last year’s report, the survey also counts a trend in consumers’ concern for responsibility from retailers. With concerns for the planet wellness rising, consumers report wanting transparency in labeling to assure products are made in sustainable or ethical ways. Additionally, due to the environmental impact of fast-shipping, nearly half of the survey respondents showed a preference for environmentally responsible shipping over “frills and next-day shipping.”

“We have entered the era of ‘responsible retail,’ where consumers are becoming more environmentally and socially conscious and will increasingly turn to brands that not only talk about responsibility but demonstrate it through their business practices,” said Jill Standish, senior managing director and head of Accenture’s global retail practice.

Consumers also want greater transparency when it comes to pricing, with 52 percent of respondents saying it is a retailer’s responsibility to guarantee price-matching during the holidays.

Expectations for retailers to be responsible for addressing social issues through business practices and working conditions has risen, with 45 percent of respondents reporting to be more likely to conduct holiday shopping with retailers that address these issues. “Retailers need to design their products and their business around responsible initiatives; those already on this path could have the edge over their competitors this holiday season and beyond,” Standish said.

Meanwhile, a concern for fashion waste is an issue that is top of mind for shoppers, one that in large part consumers have the power to effect. Almost a quarter, 24 percent, of respondents said they “would be likely” or “extremely likely” to rent clothes for holiday parties, a key part of holiday spending. Meanwhile, 56 percent said they would appreciate secondhand or vintage clothing as gifts. Adversely, with a rise in prediction for gifts of clothing and footwear (60 percent), the heightened risk of returns will lead to the production of fashion waste and associated costs to the retailer.

Contrary to other holiday reports this season, Accenture finds Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales will continue to decline in popularity. Respondents to the company’s study saw a rise from 50 percent to 55 percent reporting less inclination to shop the Thanksgiving weekend citing being able to get equal discounts on other days, avoiding crowds, and wanting to spend the time with family.

Despite reports of an uptick in digital holiday shopping, Accenture reports counterpoints to the demise of physical stores. On average, respondents say they plan to do half of all holiday shopping in a store or mall. As we know, consumers are now looking to stores as an experience, though during the holiday season, Accenture reports shoppers will be looking to browse physical stores to provide gift inspiration. Further, shoppers will be significantly more likely to purchase a gift in-store once seeing the item there, rather than continuing research online.

“With consumers planning to do half of their holiday shopping in-store, retailers need to carefully plan their strategy for customer service, including labor, assortment and allocation of inventory. With creativity and ingenuity around the store footprint, retailers have an opportunity to leverage the surge in holiday foot traffic not only to increase holiday revenues but also to find those special customers who will be the loyal ones they depend on all year,” Standish said.

Further, 2019 holiday shopping reports are expected over the next few weeks from companies such as PwC as well as the National Retail Federation, among others.

For more WWD business news:

Holiday Retail Expects Sales to Climb and E-commerce to Soar

Holiday Shopping Is Well Under Way

Holiday 2019: Retailers Sense Consumers Won’t Disappoint Them

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