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The prognosticators from the NRF released their annual retail holiday shopping study last month. As retailers and manufacturers wait with baited breath to see how consumer spending will trend this year, the study shed light on what might happen this holiday season and how retailers can most effectively influence holiday shoppers.

Is the Recession finally ending?
According to the survey, cautious optimism still rules the day. Americans plan to spend an average of $688.87 on holiday-related shopping, a slight rise from last year’s $681.83. According to the survey, 61.7% of holiday shoppers say the economy will impact their spending plans this year compared to 65.3% last year.

On the Positive Side for Retailers…
The study points out that only 54.1% of Americans plan their shopping around sales, only 40.6% plan to use coupons and a very surprising 30.9% plan to comparison shop online. This type of response may signal an end to consumer spending being all about price and necessity and giving retailers a bit of breathing room this year to focus on other factors and behaviors.

Service and Value
Two key findings emphasized by NRF spokesperson Ellen Davis were the interesting trends towards service and value as being key differentiators for consumers this season in terms of where they shop and what they shop for.

Service as the most important factor in where someone shops was ranked the highest it’s been since 2002. While price, selection and quality still rule the day, the spike in service may signify a positive trend towards shoppers no longer being content with unhelpful, unqualified store associates.

Value is also becoming a key word among retailers as they position key offerings in the competitive holiday marketplace. The back-to-school shopping season seems to have started a trend towards products that may not be the most inexpensive, but offer the consumer the most features and validate the extra cost. Communicating these features to the consumer will be critical this season and as MarketStar’s own Field Marketing Study results showed, store associates are responsive and do value time spent by the manufactures educating and training them on how to sell their products.

Other Interesting Facts
• 69.4% of young-adults (18-25) will be looking to make a non-gift-related purchase for themselves this year (compared to 57.6% of adults).
• The average non-gift purchase during the holidays costs $108 dollars.
• Online shoppers plan to spend 26.4% more than the brick-and-mortar consumer.
• 45.0% of those surveyed who own a smart phone plan to use it to shop for gifts, compare prices and research products during the holidays.

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