While most retail experts are forecasting happy holiday spending gains this year, new research from Accenture is predicting a decidedly Meh-ry Christmas, with average gift budgets falling to $632 from $851 last year.
The Accenture survey, based on online responses from 1,500 U.S. consumers, chalks the decrease up, in part, to consumers’ increasing awareness that they can find holiday bargains on their own terms, not the calendar forced on them by retailers.
“A main finding of this year’s Holiday Shopping Survey is that consumers are consistently spending money year-round on holiday gifts — not just during the holiday season,” Janet Hoffman, senior managing director, West Products Lead at Accenture, tells Marketing Daily in an email. “Consumers are collecting holiday loot throughout the year, taking advantage of deals such as Amazon Prime Day. Nearly two-thirds of the consumers we surveyed this year said they shop for holiday gifts throughout the year, thanks to the rise of deal websites and promotion days that take place well ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”
It also points to consumers’ more subdued outlook on their own family finances, with just 29% of respondents describing their financial outlook as upbeat, compared to 34% last year.
The sharply lower forecast differs greatly from the 3.6% to 4% increase projected by the National Retail Federation and the 3.8% bump expected by the International Council of Shopping Centers. PwC is predicting an advance of 6%, while Deloitte expects sales to improve up to 4.5%.
The Accenture study also quantifies people losing interest in Black Friday. It reports that a slim majority of Americans — 52% — say they are more likely to sit out the shopping holiday this year. They’re also less interested in the heavily-hyped Thanksgiving Day deals, with 50% saying they are less likely to shop on Turkey Day, and 42% say they are less inclined to pay attention to CyberMonday deals, as well.
While there’s a decided shift to e-commerce, with 54% saying they intend to do more than half of all holiday gift-buying online, they’re becoming increasingly disenchanted about finding deals when retailers say they will. While two-thirds of the respondents say they’re turned off by Black Friday crowds, 44% are convinced they can find deals just as good on other days, 22% say it’s not the biggest shopping day of the year anymore while 21% think the quality of products themselves are disappointing.
While this new thinking shows the power of promotional events like Amazon Prime Day, the summer event which this year surpassed Black Friday in sales, the report says it’s also an indication that consumers are consistently savvier in tracking down the best deals, no matter the source. And 84% check prices on Amazon before going anywhere else.
But while they are adept at finding good deals, what they’d like help with is inspiration: Some 64% say they wish retailers would do more to give them ideas for gifts, and 54% wish they all had online wish lists.
Saving money continues to be a top priority, even over convenience. People say they are almost twice as likely to buy presents at individual stores if it means getting them at lower prices, as opposed to purchasing them all in one place. And 53% say they prefer to wait longer for free shipping, compared to the 5% willing to pay for immediate delivery.