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Surveys: Holiday spending to increase

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Tis the season for predictions about just how much consumers will spend on holiday gifts, food and decorations.

So far the surveys mostly suggest that consumer spending will tick up, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, although how people will shop and what they will buy will be different this year.

One change is that this year’s holiday shopping season started early. Recognizing that the traditional scenes of holiday shoppers packing into stores the day after Thanksgiving were not a good fit with social distancing guidelines, retailers began holding “deal days” last month.

This year’s Mastercard SpendingPulse survey predicts that the extended holiday shopping season, which started on October 11, will help boost holiday spending. The SpendingPulse survey, which measures overall retail sales across all payment types, including cash and check, is forecasting a 2.4% increase in U.S. retail sales (excluding automotive and gas) compared to the same time period last year. Notably, the survey found that overall retail sales during that initial holiday kickoff week of October 11 grew 8.3% compared to the comparable week in 2019, with e-commerce sales increasing 66.5%.

Using the more traditional November-to-January definition of the holiday shopping season, Deloitte is forecasting a 1% to 1.5% increase in 2020 sales compared with the same period in 2019. The firm notes that retail sales between November 2019 and January 2020 (seasonally adjusted and excluding automotive and gasoline) grew 4.1% and totaled nearly $1.14 trillion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Deloitte’s holiday shopping forecast does include a 25% to 35% increase in e-commerce sales. E-commerce sales last year grew 14.7% and totaled $145 billion. This year e-commerce holiday sales are expected to total between $182 billion and $196 billion.

The annual survey conducted by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, meanwhile, did find consumers planning to spend a bit less this year, on average.

In total, consumers plan to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items such as decorations and food, and additional “non-gift” purchases for themselves and their families, the survey found. That is down by about $50 from the amount indicated in last year’s survey. But the survey report suggests that most of that decline ($45) will be the result of people not taking advantage of holiday sales to buy things for themselves. Consumer spending on gifts for other people is closer to last year’s amount, decreasing by only about $8. And per person spending on other holiday items like decorations is actually up slightly, the NRF survey found.

No surprise here, but the majority (60%) of consumers say they plan to purchase holiday items online this year, according to the survey. Nearly all (91%) online shoppers plan to take advantage of free shipping, while another 44% plan to use buy online, pick up in store and 16% plan to use same-day delivery.

A survey by Oracle found that while the pandemic did accelerate consumer adoption of online shopping, many people are ready to venture back into stores.

Nearly 20% of shoppers surveyed plan to do most of their shopping in-store, and 47% are planning to split their purchases between online and brick-and-mortar shops. Another 16% plan to make it close enough to a brick-and-mortar store to take advantage of curbside pickup.

Other surveys suggest that consumers are still worried about catching the coronavirus, and they will expect to see signs that retailers are cleaning and sanitizing their stores. And consumers are worried about their finances because of the pandemic’s economic fallout, so they will be price sensitive. Consumers also say that out-of-stocks will prompt them to shop elsewhere.

The surveys basically indicate that it might end up being a pretty good holiday season for retailers. But it won’t be an easy one.


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