RETAILERS FACE QUALITY-CONSCIOUS XMAS SHOPPERS
LOOKING FOR DISCOUNTS
--- e-tailers Will Double Last Year's Sales with More Shoppers
Spending More ---
Annual Xmas Survey Predicts Sales Up 6.2 Percent But
Finds Americans Less Optimistic This Year
(NEW YORK) Nov.2, 1999--Packages under the Christmas
tree may be nicer this year as shoppers seek quality merchandise,
but Americans are slightly less optimistic in the closing months
of the millennium than they were a year ago, according to the annual
national poll of consumer spending plans by a leading consumer research
and marketing strategy firm.
"Shoppers are willing to spend more for quality
gifts, resulting in an overall increase of retail sales this Christmas
of 6.2 percent, but they will be buying fewer items," said
Britt Beemer, Chairman of America's Research Group, the Charleston,
SC firm, which has accurately predicted Christmas retail sales for
five years in a row. Some of the key survey findings are:
- Americans plan on spending about $717 on Christmas gifts this
year, more than $130 less than last year's estimate.
- They plan to spend slightly more on individual presents this
year, with an average gift costing $35.05. o The number of shoppers
planning to spend in the $1,000 to $2,500 range is about half
the level of last year (11.7 percent down from 19.4 percent in
- 68.8 percent of Americans feel good about their lives, down
from 71.2 percent in 1998.
- If given $1,000 to spend, 26.1 percent of Americans say that
they would pay their bills with it rather than purchase something
Although shoppers are concerned with the quality of merchandise,
they expect less satisfaction in finding what they want (32.9 percent).
This contrasts with the perception of consumers last year when 45.6
percent said that the quality of merchandise offered was better
than in previous years. Christmas shoppers in 1999 will be looking
for sales and deep discounts.
Seventy-two point eight (72.8) percent of shoppers believe that
retailers will lower their prices just before Christmas and 78.1
percent believe that 50 percent off is a legitimate discount. "In
one the merriest findings of the survey, shoppers on the Internet
this Christmas will double in number this year," Beemer said,
"and one in eight of all American households will use the Internet
for Christmas gift giving."
- This year 8.3 percent of Americans believed that they would
shop on the Internet more, contrasted with 4.6 percent in 1998.
- About 10.2 percent of all shoppers say they will definitely
purchase over the Internet and 4.2 percent are undecided but "probably
will" shop via e-commerce.
- These consumers will spend 80 percent more than they did last
year on-line or about $180.51 each. Last year, they averaged only
The "brick and mortar" e-tailers, those which have store
locations, will benefit more than pure e-tailers, according to Beemer,
as Christmas shoppers on the Internet will look first at the "brick
and mortar" e-tailers at a rate of 57.8 percent, while pure
e-tailers will get consideration from only 16.7 percent of those
Sporting goods tops the list of "hot" purchases on the
Internet this year (32.3 percent), with books (28.4 percent) and
video games (23.6 percent) close behind. Rounding out the top five
Internet purchases planned are toys (19.6 percent) and home videos
"Christmas shopping has yet to begin with only 10.1 percent
of consumers completing their holiday purchases, but shoppers are
cautious about what they will find in retail stores this year,"
Beemer reports. "More of them (66.2 percent) are concerned
about the time spent shopping and will go to the stores during the
week rather than the weekends to avoid the crowds. In addition,
fewer people expect to find helpful employees in stores (65.8 percent
contrasted with 72 percent last year). Over half expect stores to
be short handed and anticipate waiting in lines."
Top Christmas gift items on Santa's list overall are toys (34.6
percent), women's clothing (26.3 percent), children's clothing (22.9
percent), perfume and cologne (19.1 percent) and sporting goods
(18.9 percent). Computer games, including Sony's Play Station and
Nintendo, are the most popular toy items (40.5 percent). Doll babies
are number two in toys (18.1 percent). Bicycles (17.6 percent),
sports equipment (17.3 percent) and hand-held electronic games (16.4
percent) fill out the top five toy preferences.
"Consumers are planning to travel less and entertain at home
more this holiday season continuing their cautious outlook,"
Beemer said. "While 32.7 percent of consumers said they will
travel less, only 20.5 percent said they will entertain less, compared
to 27.8 percent in 1998." They are also divided on when they
will go on vacation with 25.8 percent taking time off after Christmas
and 22.5 percent taking it before Christmas.
The survey was conducted by telephone October 29 to 31, of 1000
adult respondents. It has a margin of error of ± 4.3 percent.
This is the sixth Christmas retail business survey conducted by
America's Research Group.
Britt Beemer founded America's Research Group in 1979. His research
clients, many of the leading corporations of America, including
Furniture Brands, JC Penney, Eckerd Drugs, Sealy Mattress, and Barnes
Beemer is the author of Predatory Marketing, which provides
insight into his 20-year history of helping companies gain market
share, published three years ago in hard cover by William Morrow
& Co., and in paperback the following year by Broadway Books.
Barbara Burns (212) 486 1140
Britt Beemer (800) 723 3253
Copyright © 1998 by America's Research Group
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