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5 Holiday 2011 Shopping Trends

11/03/2011

It’s the holiday season! Or at least it is in the minds and calendars of retailers. Overnight replenishment teams pulled the remnants of Halloween off the shelves at Target on the 31st with an 8 am opening to a fully stocked holiday department.

Amidst the holiday cheer and color is a serious business for retailers who will be battling for their share of the $465.6 billion projected for this years’ holiday spend-a-thon.

Leading 2011 holiday trends can be boiled down to:

Multi-channel shoppers are prized – According to the National Retail Federation’s holiday survey, the average person plans to do 36 percent of their holiday shopping online – up from 33 percent last year and the highest in the survey’s history. This doesn’t translate into 36 percent of purchases will be made online. Rather it implies that more than one-third of the time, people will be leveraging the web to research products, find gift ideas and compare prices before making a purchase – either online or in a store.

There’s no question that the multichannel shopper presents the biggest opportunity for retailers. Holiday shoppers who shop in multiple channels will spend an eye-popping 22 percent more this year than people who are only shopping in a store.

Shoppers will be shopping around – In a sluggish economy, people shop in fewer places…right? Wrong! In fact, during periods of consumer uncertainty, people dedicate themselves to finding the “best” deal – and they shop all over the place. According to NRF, a majority of shoppers will visit discount retailers this holiday season. But they’ll also be shopping at department stores, clothing stores, electronics stores, craft stores, grocery stores…you name it, nearly every category is seeing an increase in traffic. And shoppers aren’t discriminating on product. People won’t hesitate to buy toys at a grocery store or stocking stuffers at a wholesale club – and this trend offers opportunities to retailers in all categories.

Everyday useable – In 2008 and 2009, both years when holiday sales saw declines from the year before, shoppers were all about practical, necessity gift purchases. This year, there seems to be a little bit of wiggle room on the wish list. The most popular items this year aren’t necessarily cheap, but they are appropriate to wear or use on a regular basis. What this means: don’t be shocked to see people spring for the $200 coffee maker or the $400 watch, but the evening clutch might be a tough sell. The challenge for retailers, of course, is to present each gift option in a way that people will think it’s versatile and applicable for a variety of occasions.

Free shipping isn’t “free” but it sure works – Retailers have a love/hate relationship with free shipping. Why? For starters, it’s hardly free – after all, somebody has to pay for the 20,000 people who FedEx is hiring this holiday season – but shoppers have tunnel vision for this incentive and have come to expect free shipping like they expect low prices. And retailers are listening. According to Shop.org, a record 92.5 percent of online retailers will offer free shipping this holiday season – and that’s not only going to be a Cyber Monday staple. Free shipping offers are likely to be found all holiday season long, as 56 percent of retailers say their budgets for free shipping are higher this holiday season than last and one-third say free shipping offers will start earlier in the season than last year.

Mobile makes its mark – Half of Americans with smartphones will use their devices for holiday shopping this year, according to our survey – primarily to research products or compare prices but also to find retailers’ information like store hours and locations. Consumers will also use phones while shopping in stores to read reviews or redeem coupons – while a smaller number (16 percent) will actually use their phone to make purchases.

Tablets are a different beast entirely. While there aren’t too many people whipping out their iPad at retail stores, they are using the devices to shop. According to our survey, 70 percent of tablet owners will use their devices for holiday shopping this year, and they are twice as likely to use tablets to purchase merchandise as smartphones. When you think tablets, think of someone sitting at home on their couch in front of the TV.

Hang on to your hat, Santa. It’s going to be a wild holiday season!

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