Monday, November 1, 2010

Value remains important for Christmas shoppers

This is the week we say goodbye to the political ads that have dominated the media for months. Some might say good riddance to bad rubbish, but you need to be ready to say hello to an avalanche of Christmas ads.
Retailers are preparing for a strong 2010 Christmas season. Their confidence is somewhat based on sales results so far this fall.

For September, the International Council of Shopping Centers reported sales gains of 2.6 percent. Numbers for individual chains found Macy's up 4.8 percent, J. C. Penney with a 5.1 percent gain and soon-to-be-in-Nashville Nordstrom climbing 7.5 percent for the month. Sales gains came with a cost, however.

"Consumers remained highly value-centric and purchased largely only with coupons in hand or because of special offers," said Thomas Filandro, retail analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group.

According to the National Retail Federation, 2010 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, shoppers are slated to spend $447.1 billion, a 2.3 percent increase, on holiday-related items this year. Gift spending is expected to rise 2.1 percent to $518.08 per capita.

Frugality is not going away. According to the retail federation, concerns about the economy will influence holiday purchases for six in 10 Americans.

For the upcoming holiday selling season, retailers need to expect that 54.1 percent will look for sales and 40.6 percent plan to use coupons and comparison shop. Much of the comparison shopping will be done online (by almost 31 percent of shoppers) and by examining newspapers and circulars (28 percent).

"Consumers will still shop with the economy in the back of their minds, but we're starting to see shoppers take baby steps toward a new normal," said Matthew Shay, president of the retail federation.

More change is on the way

It is not just the economy that is changing holiday shopping. The 2010 Consumer Shopping Habits survey by North Carolina-based software provider Channel Advisors found that 58 percent of consumers are planning to buy their holiday gifts online, while 41 percent will patronize brick-and-mortar stores.

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