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Waiting for Great Deals, Celebrating at Home: Holiday Outlook 2012

Guest Blog by Thom Blischok

The 2012 holiday season is going to be one of change. The old pattern of rushing out for the impulse buy is giving way to a growing trend of patient, cautious shopping, with more options for getting great deals enabled by technology, according to a recent Booz & Company 1,600-person survey.

The one constant in 2012 is the “lens of affordability.” Every shopper Booz & Co. talked to or surveyed indicated that his or her buying decisions will be determined by affordability. Shoppers will be buying gifts they need more than gifts they want. Across income levels, shoppers say that their 2012 holiday spending will be almost the same as last year’s: between $675 and $725 per family. The historical precedent of a huge gift haul is transitioning to a smaller – yet more meaningful – gift-giving experience. At the same time, holiday celebrations are “in” this year, as the uncertainty of today’s economy continues in the minds and wallets of the 2012 holiday shopper.

Here are three key trends to watch from Booz & Co.’s holiday 2012 research:

  1. The search for deals will drive purchase behaviors. Seventy-three percent of all shoppers expect to find great deals this holiday season – an 18 percent increase over 2011. Almost 25 million shoppers will wait until Christmas Eve to fill their shopping carts, a number also up from last year. Retailers already are beginning the “deal dance” with consumers as they position themselves with great offers. Shoppers will let their keyboards do the walking to find these deals, using smartphones to snap pictures in stores and then going online to compare prices and find the best one. This “showrooming” trend will lead to future holiday seasons that are driven by global price and value transparency.
  2. Shoppers will be planning more holiday celebrations. Sixty-one percent of shoppers are planning a holiday celebration as a way to give thanks for living through a very tough economic period (up 12 percent from last year). Almost 53 percent of shoppers report that they are planning more than one celebration this year, a 17 percent increase over 2011. All families who responded, regardless of income, want to celebrate as affordably as possible – and making a fine dinner is at the top of their holiday list. There will also be significant entertaining; consumers are seeking intriguing hors d’oeuvres, snacks and treats to feature at holiday festivities. To tap into this, retailers must become creative in offering the tastes, smells and delights of the holiday season. They can help home cooks create innovative, large family meals with interesting new side dishes and desserts as well as labor-saving ideas, such as ready-washed and precut meal assembly ingredients.
  3. Gift-giving will be reshaped by affordability, “light” indulgences, and family categories. Seventy-six percent of shoppers indicate that they will “pause before purchase” to ensure they make the right gift decision. Impulse purchases appear to be on the decline as shoppers stretch every holiday dollar. However, 52 percent of shoppers plan to splurge a little with a luxury gift that their budget can handle. For some it will be that special handbag, for others a home appliance, and for others a true holiday meal celebration. Re-gifting will also be on the rise this season: Presenting last year’s gifts with a little value-add (like a small accessory) will become a gift-giving strategy embraced by 32 percent of American shoppers. Expect categories such as home entertainment, basic apparel, exotic kitchen appliances (like next-generation coffeemakers and food processors), smartphones and tablets, interactive toys and downloadable gifts like e-books to top wish lists.

It would be fair to say that the 2012 holiday season will be one of careful and controlled spending, lots of celebrations for surviving another economically tough year and purchases that are determined largely by the search for the deal.

Thom Blischok is the chief retail strategist and a senior executive advisor at Booz & Co. For more information, visit www.booz.com.

Retail Merchandiser magazine is pleased to present the points of view of many different industry stakeholders. If you would like to contribute your own guest blog to our site, please contact the editor at russ.gager@phoenixmediacorp.com.

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