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Consumers Still Feel Wary of Economic Future Heading Into the Holidays


John McIndoeJohn McIndoe

Posted on Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

We’ve had a busy week here at SymphonyIRI with the release of our Holiday Shopping 2011 survey results and Point of View, “Gray Skies: Consumers with negative views of government’s handling of the economy have hunkered down and reined in spending—for the long haul.” Both uncovered similar trends and while it is no surprise consumers are still feeling wary about the economic future, attitude toward spending is directly reflected upon their shopping behavior.

The Holiday Shopping 2011 survey that looked at shopping attitudes of 2,000 consumers (a nationally representative sample) found that this holiday season 81 percent will be turning to the Internet for the best deals and shopping online this year.  While consumers expressed a desire to have a holiday season consistent with those experienced prior to the economic downturn, they are being extra conscious about exactly how and what they are spending their money on this year.  A few examples of money saving strategies during the holiday season include:

  • 79 percent of consumers will be making their grocery purchase decisions before entering the store
  • 26 percent plan to spend less on holiday gifts with most budgets (74 percent) topping out at $800 for gifts
  • 48 percent of consumers will take advantage more often of promotions learned online versus 50 percent, who will leverage online promotions with the same frequency as last year

While the holiday survey took a thorough look at holiday spending trends, many similarities with regard to shopper outlook was uncovered in the ”Gray Skies” Point of View  that indicated 82 percent of shopper behavior is being impacted by negative feelings towards government spending, resulting in uncertainty that will undoubtedly impact holiday budgets.

This tightening of the belts has caused consumers to continue being creative with their saving and spending habits. And, thanks to the Internet and new technology, efforts to save money often are quick and easy, even literally at consumers’ fingertips on smartphones and other devices.

Between the Holiday Shopping 2011 research and the “Gray Skies” Point of View, it’s clear that the common and familiar theme among consumers of being conscious of personal finances, planning for the future and getting creative with savings and purchase decisions is here to stay. As the uncertainty of the economic future remains, it’s clear that the mindful spending habits of consumers will also continue creating an opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to capitalize on money saving promotions, strategies and programs.

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2 Responses for "Consumers Still Feel Wary of Economic Future Heading Into the Holidays"

  1. Liz Robinson October 26th, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    Given that retail spending was down for the third month in a row and down more than double what was anticipated, I think shoppers will be even more conservative than expected. You can see it in the consumer sentiment numbers that are back at 2008 recession levels.

    I think that Layaway options will have helped some shoppers who are planners get what they want, but I will be interested to see what happens with the middle and upper middle class. I think that we might see a more conservative approach.

  2. Donna Sutton October 26th, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    I AM “Santa Claus” in my family. I’m known as THE best gift giver, personal shopper and all around most efficient shopper there is. Typically by September my closet is bursting with bags and bags of gifts I’ve been purchasing all year long (beginning in January) for my ‘peeps’. I love giving people that ‘special’ or unique thing I found and I will collect gifts all year long for the people I love.

    Well this year, my closet is not bursting – it’s quite emaciated. I’ve held back on those extra little spends, being quite cautious, know ing I need to save money eacy month for unexpected things, like when my FSA funds ran out, or that electric bill went up, or gas prices hit those highs and to just be careful. As well, my money just isn’t going as far these days. Things just cost more on a weekly and monthly basis, so the ‘extra’ isn’t even available.

    I’ve already “planned” on not spending as much and told my gift recipients not to expect much this year. They already “planned” on not getting as much and are “planning” on not giving as much as well – so it’s an even playing field.

    I’ve often felt Christmas was an unplanned, planned budgetary event, if you know what I mean – as you can tell by my shopping style. I shopped all year long, but then as Christmas was near, then I actually looked at my family’s Christmas lists, and then went ‘Christmas shopping’. This year, I’ve asked them to do their Amazon.com wish list and to make sure they prioritize it, but to know I would be limiting it.

    So retailers, don’t expect much either. The money’s not there – we’re not really tightening our belts – inflation and the higher cost of living has done that for us. Caution has filtered in somewhere too, so if I AM spending, it will only be if it’s a really good price/value. I thnk it’s going to be a tough season – but let’s remember what the season is about – giving – not HOW much we give – but THAT we give, and receive. And there will be more Christmases and a new year is coming.