Deloitte survey: Consumers still spending on holidays despite economic concern

New York City -- Despite  concerns about the economy and rising household expenses, nearly three out of five (59%) of consumers will put aside economic worries and spend the same or more this holiday season, according to Deloitte’s 26th annual survey of holiday spending intentions and trends. While this is a slight decline from 2010, it represents an eight percentage point increase from 2009.

“Lackluster employment growth, debt crises and stock market fluctuations have battered consumer confidence while inflation left many with lighter wallets this fall,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman and U.S. retail & distribution leader, Deloitte LLP. “Consumers will be conservative this holiday season, but remain resilient and maintain a more positive interest in holiday shopping than we witnessed during the recession.”

Among holiday shopping destinations, the Internet and discount stores are at the top of the list, with 48%) of consumers planning to shop these two destinations for holiday gifts. While online interest climbed, discounters slid 10 percentage points from the 2010.

More than one-quarter (27%) of smartphone owners plan to use their devices for holiday shopping to search for store locations (67%), compare prices (59%) and check product availability (46%). Additionally, 44% plan to use social media to seek discounts, read reviews and check family and friends’ gift lists.

“Consumers are using online and mobile platforms to make the most of their holiday budgets, and the survey indicates that they will do more than just compare prices,” said Paul. “Retailers that use mobile and online channels to show product availability, locations and pricing but add customized promotions and gift ideas may encourage shoppers to come in the door for a specific gift and take additional items to the register.”

In other survey findings:

  • Of the 68% of consumers who plan to change the way they shop to save money, 51% plan to head online to find better prices – up 10% from last year – while 46%  plan to buy more items that qualify for free shipping.
  • More than half of consumers (53%) plan to begin shopping before Thanksgiving, but 73% intend to hold out until after this holiday to make the majority of their purchases.
  • Apparel ranked as the most popular holiday gift (48%), followed by gift cards (45%, down 11% from last year).
  • Higher-income households’ gift spending will hold up while middle- and lower-income groups are paring back. Households earning $100,000 or more annually expect to trim gift spending by 2% to shell out an average of $812 on gifts, compared with a 26% drop to $291 on gifts among those earning less than $100,000.

For more on the survey, go to deloitte.com/us/2011HolidaySurvey.