Holiday High: Consumer Enthusiasm For Black Friday Strongest In Eight Years

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) says it expects holiday spending to gain 4% this year, in line with previous forecasts from the National Retail Federation and Deloitte. And new research from Accenture, which affirms that buoyancy in consumer confidence, says people can’t wait to get out there and shop, with consumer interest in Black Friday retail events at the highest level in eight years.

The ICSC says it expects Americans to spend $488.6 billion at shopping centers, fueled by lower unemployment and increases in household income. Holiday hiring in the retail sector, which it says is another important indicator, is expected to climb 7.3%.

Accenture’s research, based on 500 U.S. adults, finds that consumers will spend, on average, $718. And 25% intend to shell out more than they did last year. (In the previous year’s study, only 20% had such plans.) And 66% of the respondents are likely to shop on Black Friday, a big jump from last year’s 55%. Plans to shop on Thanksgiving Day -- which has been somewhat controversial -- are also gaining, with 45% planning to do so, up from 38% in the prior year. And of all people who said they plan to shop this holiday season, 47% intend to be physically inside a store at some point between 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, the retail weekend’s new unofficial kickoff, and 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

Accenture also cites that bouncy consumer confidence as the source of the gains, with 28% of its sample reporting that they have more discretionary cash this year, and 22% feeling more secure in their jobs. (At this point last year, only 15% felt that way.)

And while all this should be happy holiday tidings for stores, the consulting company finds that consumers are continuing to hone their bargain-hunting skills, which means stores may have to be even more promotional than in the past.

Although they intend to spend more, holiday shoppers remain keenly focused on discounts and sales. Some 96% of the survey say discounts are essential to them, --  up from 94% last year -- and 29% are markdown ninjas, who say it will take a discount of 50% or more to persuade them to make a purchase.

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