2009 Holiday Shopping Trends: Consumers to Buy Early, Buy Less

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Performics, a performance marketing solution provider, has released details of a September 2009 consumer survey, “2009 Online Buyer Economic Trends Study.” The results are not shocking - of those surveyed, 29 percent will be shopping earlier than they did last year, and 60 percent plan to spend less. But a look into the details of the study reveal some interesting insights for retailers and marketers.

  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents who said they will spend less report buying fewer items, not necessarily spending less per item.
  • Two-thirds will not be buying gifts for some people who they bought for last year.
  • Of those who won't be getting holiday cheer, friends, co-workers and extended family top the list.

There are also significant differences by gender in this year's expected holiday shopping trends.

  • 35 percent of women will start shopping earlier, compared to 19 percent of men.
  • A full 66 percent of women will spend less, compared to just 48 percent of men.

For retailers, this is a strong reminder to start holiday promotions ASAP. It does not suggest, however, that retailers need to slash prices. While fewer items may be purchased, there is no indication that big-ticket items will fall out of favor. Performics also reported on a recent projection by the National Retail Federation, who says that overall holiday sales will fall one percent this year - an improvement over last year's 3.4 percent drop.

Yet another study by NPD Group, Inc., a leading market research company, shows a less grim picture than the Performics data. NPD's study shows that only 30 percent of shoppers plan to spend less this holiday. Also encouraging is that there is no change in the top five categories for consumer holiday spending. They are:

  • Apparel - 49%
  • Toys -     34%
  • Movies -  29%
  • Books and Electronics - 28%
  • Peripherals, Digital & Video Cameras, MP3 Players - 24%

And from those categories, books and electronics; and peripherals, digital & video cameras, MP3 players are the only ones that saw an increase over 2008.

The bad news from all of this is that consumers are undoubtedly planning to spend less this year. The good news? Consumers are still ready to spend money on popular online retail items. And even if they buy fewer items, they are not necessarily going to spend less per item.

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