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Accenture: Tis the season...for showrooming

Annual survey finds holiday shopping already underway for 51%

New York - As online grows, as does "showrooming," and 56% of consumers said after seeing a product in a physical store they would search online for the best price and then purchase online this holiday, according to the Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey.

Furthermore, 27% of these same shoppers said they would probably make the purchase online via their smartphone or tablet while they are still out shopping, compared to 17% in 2011. The top reason cited: to compare prices while in a store.

"Showrooming is a very real phenomenon; however, retailers can compete with, and even beat, the online pure play retailers," said Chris Donnelly, managing director of Accenture's retail practice.

Consumers, he continued, "want a simple and seamless shopping experience that offers them convenience and value. As recent announcements have shown, some traditional retailers are starting to tackle showrooming head-on this holiday season with tactics such as price matching against their online competitors, but they must also strengthen their customer service and product availability in order to really fight back."

Halloween is still a week away, but 51% of U.S. consumers said they have already made their holiday shopping plans this year and expect to be buying gifts with cash that they have set aside specifically for the holidays.

Half (52 %) said they expect to increase their spending by $250 or more. However, only 5% said they expect to be "extravagant" in their holiday shopping, and only 8 % said they would "splurge". Consumers are expected to spend an average of $582 on holiday shopping, of which 23% plan to spend more than $750.

"The U.S. consumer refuses to be counted out and is entering this holiday season better prepared and more willing to open his or her wallet," said Donnelly. "Self-sacrificing will be down and spending will be slightly up, however, our research also shows that shoppers will remain disciplined in their spending."

Discount retailers will remain the most popular destination for the vast majority of consumers this holiday season, with 75% planning to hit discounters, up slightly from 73% last year. Online-only retailers are continuing to grow in popularity (44%, compared to 41% in 2011). And 39% said they will be buying gifts at mainstream department stores, the same proportion as 2011.

Almost half (47%) believe that the best discounts will be available on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, whereas 29% expect that they will need to hold out until the week leading up to Christmas in order to get the best holiday bargains.

As the internet increasingly becomes a popular shopping venue, it comes as no surprise that about half (52 %) of consumers surveyed said they would be willing to shop online on Thanksgiving Day if retailers offer discounts.

 

The study also shows a change in how consumers intend to spend their gift cards, with more likely to use the cards to treat themselves to something they would not ordinarily buy (38%, compared to 34% in 2011). Fewer consumers said that they are less likely to use gift cards for everyday items (19%, compared to 23% in 2011).

Reversing a three-year trend of declining interest, the survey found that 53% of shoppers plan to shop on Black Friday, representing a leap from 2011's findings that showed only 44 % of respondents were interested in shopping on Black Friday.

Accenture noted it survey this year offers evidence that pressure on consumers' finances "may be easing, as fewer people are planning to cut back on spending for themselves." In numbers, this comes to 40%, compared to 46% in 2011 and 52% in 2010.

"The retail environment is still heavily promotional, and that is the default setting for most retailers," Donnelly explained. "However, the difference this year is how early, and how hard, some retailers have punched the promotion button. Discounts of 30 % or more have been available since October 1, and that will set the tone for this season."

 

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