Looks like people are more eager for online deals than ever, and this holiday, Walmart and Target may be among the biggest losers, reports Kantar Retail.
In a webinar detailing its holiday spending forecast, the WPP unit predicts a dollar gain of about 2.8% this holiday -- just half of last year’s increase -- with unit sales expected to be flat. Shopping in most channels is expected to be down, with “online only” stores such as Amazon the major exception. And with online sales gaining in almost every category, including consumables, the Internet’s gains are increasingly at the expense of major discounters.
“Last year, 60% of the shoppers we surveyed said they intended to do some holiday shopping at Walmart, 45% at Target, and 40% at online-only sites,” says Mary Brett Whitfield, SVP/director of shopper insights. “This year, that changed considerably, with just 52% saying they plan to shop at Walmart, 43% at Target and 45% at online-only sites. In other words, people are planning on spending more online than at Target. That’s key for retailers to understand the importance and prevalence of online shopping.”
Another change: More shoppers are buying early, with 18% saying they had already purchased some gifts in August, versus 13% last year.
Despite initial signs of optimism, “with more shoppers indicating that they plan to spend more than last year,” she says, “spending sentiments have eroded over the course of the year, causing us to take that level of optimism with a grain of salt.”
The consumer recovery has been sabotaged by such factors as rising fuel prices, disasters in Japan, the Euro crisis and the debt ceiling issue, explains Frank Badillo, Kantar’s senior economist. “So in the span of six months, the macro environment changed dramatically, making us at risk for recession.”
And even though gas prices have come down, he says it typically takes several quarters for families to go back to their budgets and reassess. He expects people to cut discretionary spending as a result of spending more on gas than they realized earlier in the year.
The most vulnerable categories, he says, are homegoods and apparel, with online, dollar stores and personal-care chains, such as Sephora and Ulta the few exceptions. “Mid- to upper-income shoppers will lead the falloff,” he says, “and they had been supporting growth. But pain is now moving up market. Upscale department stores, which have done exceptionally well in recent months, are vulnerable given wealth losses.”
Accenture also released its holiday forecast, reporting that 71% of those it surveyed say they plan to be “careful” or “controlled” in 2011, and that 88% say they intend to spend the same or less than last year.
It also found that consumers are drifting a little farther from discounters, with 73% percent of respondents saying they will shop at a discount retailer this year, compared to 81% last year and 85% in 2009. Accenture also reports that “Black Friday” seems to be less important, suggesting that this year’s turnout could be the lowest in three years. (Some 44% of its respondents say they plan to shop then, compared to 47% in 2010, and 52% in 2009.)