Brand Keys Projects White Christmas Will Be in the Black, Though Shoppers Will Be Pickier


A new survey of 16,200 consumers from across the country, conducted
by research company Brand Keys, is projecting that holiday retail ad sales
revenue will increase this year by 6%.

The survey was taken during the last two weeks of October,
before Hurricane Sandy hammered the East Coast. While that could skew some of
the results slightly, a total of nine different U.S. census regions were in
fact polled.

Beyond how much money consumers plan to spend on gifts this
holiday season, the survey yielded plenty of additional information on consumer
patterns of buying and what types of gifts people plan to buy.

Numbers indicate that the overall economic picture still
impacts the holiday spending decisions of 70% of consumers, and no matter how
much folks spend, they will still be looking to make price vs. value judgments
on whatever they buy. Shoppers are used to year-round retailer discounting now,
so price alone is not going to be the determining factor in what brand they

The survey also found that 60% of respondents plan to rely
on a price comparison app when they shop to find the best deals, and 56% said
they will be using traditional print and electronic coupons to save money; in
addition, 92% believe retailers can always find a better deal to offer

While more retailers are trying to induce early sales by
offering layaway plans, the survey found that only 24% of shoppers indicated
they started shopping for the holidays in October.

In other words, said Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff,
just because retailers already began decorating their stores and advertising
holiday promotions doesn't mean consumers have been motivated to get their
credit cards out early.

In fact, the survey found that 40% of shoppers wait until
sometime in November to begin their holiday shopping, with 32% saying they were
waiting until the Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday, or the
following Monday, known as Cyber Monday, before getting things in gear. Another
36% will wait until December to begin holiday shopping, while 9% said they would
wait until the last two weeks before Christmas to begin. Passikoff said some in
that last group are just in the habit of shopping late, while others believe
they can get better deals by shopping closer to Christmas.

The survey also found that more shoppers plan to buy online
for their holiday gifts this year, though most will still do some of their
shopping in the stores. Of the shoppers, 15% said customer service and a
positive shopping experience in the store can be a differentiator when determining
where they will shop -- up from 10% last year. Passikoff said consumers want
more service, and retailers who deliver will see increases in sales, customer
loyalty and profits.

In terms of where consumers plan to shop this holiday season,
the survey found very little change in from past years. Among those surveyed,
90% say they will do some shopping at a discount department store. Another 70% will
also make purchases at a traditional department store. A whopping 97% said they
would buy something online -- all those percentages were the same as in last
year's survey. However, two areas saw some change: 40% of consumers said they plan
to shop at specialty stores, a rise of 4% from last year, while 68% said they
will buy some holiday gifts from a catalogue service, down 4% from last year.

Gift cards are also popular among holiday consumers, once
again: 93% of shoppers plan to buy at least one gift card, up 1% from last year.

As far as types of products, 75% will buy clothing and
accessories, up 5%, and 60% will buy some type of electronics, computers or
cellphones as gifts, up 10% over last year. Also, 30% will buy CDs, DVDs and
video games, down 10% from last year, while 30% also plan to buy personal care
products, up from 22% last year. Food and wine will be purchased by 20% of
shoppers, flat compared to last year, while 18% plan to buy jewelry gifts, also
flat from last year. And 10% plan to buy home decorating gifts, down from 20%,
and 5% plan to buy books, which is down 5% from last year.