Holiday Shoppers to Spend Less, Search for Discounts and Deals

By Oct 31, 2011

Some 62.2% of Americans said that the economy would affect their holiday spending plans, spending a bit less overall. However, many of these consumers plan take advantage of discounts and sales to purchase items for themselves.

Shoppers report that they plan to shell out an average of $704.18 on holiday gifts and seasonal merchandise, down slightly from last year’s $718.98, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch.

Many plan to comparison shop to get the best deals with 5.7% using their mobile devices to do so, up from 3.7% in 2010, and nearly one-third (32.1%) will comparative shop online more often, up from 30.9% last year.

Even though spending may be off a bit, the NRF is still forecasting overall holiday retail sales to grow 2.8% during November and December to $465.6 billion.

“When it comes to retail growth this holiday season, slow and steady wins the race – and the same is true for shoppers, who are meticulously calculating the best ways to stretch their dollar”

The survey also found that nearly six in 10 holiday shoppers plan to take advantage of sales and discounts spending about $130.43 to buy apparel, electronics, home goods and other items for themselves and their families. That’s up from $112.20 last year.

“Shoppers are meticulously calculating the best ways to stretch their dollar,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a release. “Knowing their customers are more focused than ever on value, retailers will entice shoppers with promotions that go beyond discounts, whether they’re promoting free gifts with purchase, an extended warranty, or stellar customer service.”

The survey also found:

* The largest portion of a consumer’s holiday budget will go toward gifts for family members

* The average person is expected to shell out $403.26 on kids, parents and other family members. Friends, co-workers and even the family pet can expect something nice this year as well

* An average $68.23 will be spent on friends, $21.06 on co-workers, and $23.39 on other gifts.

* Consumers will also spend on decorations ($46.73), greeting cards ($26.52), candy and food ($96.75) and flowers ($18.23).

With wish lists in hand and a set budget in mind, people this year plan to shop around with a variety of retailers for holiday gifts and merchandise. Department stores, with unique private-label offerings, will see an increase in traffic over last year (56.9% vs. 54.5% last year), as will clothing or accessory stores (35.2% vs. 33.6% in 2010), drug stores (21.1% vs. 18.9% last year), and grocery stores and supermarkets (48.8% vs. 46.7% last year), and most will head to discount stores (66.1% vs. 65.1%). Crafts and fabric stores will benefit from those looking to make personal and thoughtful gifts (17.5% vs. 16.1% in 2010).

For the fifth year in a row—and at the highest level in the survey’s history—57.7% of shoppers say they’d like to receive a gift card this holiday season. Other items on consumers’ wish lists include clothing or clothing accessories (50.0%), consumer electronics or computer-related accessories (35.4%), jewelry (22.8%) and personal care items (19.3%).

When asked which one factor will be most important when shopping this holiday season, sales or price discounts largely win out (41.6%), but customer service (6.0% vs. 5.3% last year) and quality of merchandise (14.6% vs. 12.7% in 2010) are continuing to become more vital in consumers’ decision making processes, highlighting the growing importance of value when it comes to gift and everyday shopping, the NRF said.

On the Web

The Internet will be a major shopping destination this year. Nearly half (46.7%) of respondents said they buy online, up from 43.9% last year, with the average shopper doing 36% of their shopping online—whether they’re comparing prices, researching products, or actually making a purchase. These cyberspace shoppers will also spend about 22% more shoppers in stores. Adults aged 25-34, many of whom have small children and crave convenience, will complete 43.7% of their holiday shopping online, the most of any age group.

This year, stores have adapted to people’s plans (40%) to start holiday shopping before Halloween. Many retailers were decked out in their holiday fare weeks ago. Another 40 % will start in November, 17% will hit the stores the first two weeks in December and 4.1% will hold out until the final two weeks of December.

Smartphone Shopping

About half (52.6%) of those who own a smartphone said they will use their device to research products, redeem coupons, use apps to assist in their purchase, and purchase holiday gifts and items. Specifically, nearly one-third (31.0%) said they would research products and/or compare prices, 14.1% will purchase products, 17.3% will redeem coupons and 15.6% will use apps to research or purchase items. One-quarter (25.1%) will use their phone to look up a retailer’s information such as store hours and location.

Tablet owners are even more likely to use their device to aid in their holiday shopping—seven in 10 (70.5%) will research and shop using their device. Half of those with tablets will research products and/or compare prices, and more than one-third (34.8%) will actually make a purchase with their device. Tablet owners will also redeem coupons (21.5%), look up retailer information (33.8%) and use apps to research items or purchase products (21.0%).

When it comes to mobile shopping, young adults present the biggest opportunity for retailers. Americans aged 18-24 are the most likely to use their smartphones (72.2%) and tablets (86.4%) to shop for holiday items this year, the survey said.

Men are also considerably more likely than women to use their smartphone and tablet device to shop for gifts. Two in 10 men (17.6%) and just 10.8% of women who own smartphones plan to purchase products, and four in 10 (38.5%) men with tablets and 31.3% of women with tablets will make purchases this holiday season.


The survey polled 8,585 consumers and was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch October 4 to 11, 2011. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1%.