Strong US consumer spending will continue into holiday season, boosting shipping demand

Consumers will spend 4.1% more than last year during winter holidays, according to NRF Survey

Consumers say they will spend an average of $1,007.24 during the holiday season this year, up 4.1% from the $967.13 they said they would spend last year, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

The consumer survey comes on top of NRF’s annual holiday spending forecast, which takes into account a variety of economic factors to project overall spending rather than per-consumer spending. The forecast estimated that holiday retail sales in November and December will be up between 4.3% and 4.8% over 2017 for a total between $717.45 billion and $720.89 billion.

E-commerce now rivals physical sales and an omnichannel approach will be critical: An equal number (55%) will shop online and in department stores while 51% will go to discount stores, 44% to grocery stores, 33% to clothing stores and 24% to electronics stores. The mix of channels was further evident with 50% of those shopping online saying they will pick up their purchases in-store. Of online shoppers who want the package to come to their home or office, 94% will take advantage of free shipping, 16% will choose expedited shipping and 11% will use same-day delivery.

 “The holidays are just around the corner and consumers are ready to shop,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Confidence is near an all-time high, unemployment is the lowest we’ve seen in decades and take-home wages are up. All of that is reflected in consumers’ buying plans. Retailers expect strong demand this year, and are prepared with a wide array of merchandise while offering strong deals and promotions during the busiest and most competitive shopping season of the year period.”

Tariffs on a wide range of consumer goods from China took effect last month, but Shay noted that retailers imported record volumes of merchandise ahead of the tariffs this summer and said any effect on pricing during the holiday season is expected to be minimal.

Consumers will spend in three main categories during the holidays – gifts, at $637.67; non-gift holiday items such as food, decorations, flowers and greeting cards, at $215.04; and other non-gift purchases that take advantage of the deals and promotions throughout the season, at $154.53.

Most holiday shoppers (60%) are waiting until at least November to begin browsing and buying items for the season. However, 21% planned to start in October and 18% said they began in September or earlier. Of the early shoppers, 61% said they were trying to spread out their budgets while 47% wanted to avoid the crowds and stress of last-minute shopping.

While sales and discounts remained the largest factor in choosing a particular retailer, cited by 71%, quality and selection of merchandise were the next-largest factor (cited by 60%), followed by free shipping (47%) and convenient location (45%).

“Consumers will be scouring through retailers’ ads to make sure they are getting the best deal possible,” Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said. “Although sales will remain an important factor, shoppers want good quality and want to be able to find what they’re looking for.”

For the 12th year in a row, gift cards remain the most popular items on wish lists, requested by 60% of those surveyed, followed by clothing and accessories at 53%, books/movies/music (37%), electronics (29%), home décor (23%), jewelry (22%), personal care or beauty items (19%), sporting goods (18%) and home improvement items (17%).

The survey of 7,313 adult consumers was conducted October 1-11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 to 2 percentage points

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