"I'm Still Standing," Say Consumers - Holiday Retail Outlook


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This year's holiday retail outlook suggests that the post-recession shopping patterns are becoming permanent; however, there are still some reasons to celebrate. Consumers are shopping more frugally, but they are still interested in keeping up the heart of the holiday season: gifts, gatherings, and a little bit of luxury. (strategy+business http://strat.bz/8EN6v5e)

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"I'm Still Standing," Say Consumers - Holiday Retail Outlook

  1. 1. strategy+businessONLINE OCTOBER 1, 2012BY THOM BLISCHOK, NICHOLAS HODSON,AND CHRISTOPHER PERRIGO“I’m Still Standing,”Say ConsumersThis year’s holiday retail outlook suggests that shopping patternscreated during the recession are becoming permanent, but thereare still reasons for retailers to celebrate.
  2. 2. T “I’m Still Standing,” Say Consumers This year’s holiday retail outlook suggests that shopping patterns created during the recession are becoming permanent, but there are still reasons for retailers to celebrate. by Thom Blischok, Nicholas Hodson, and Christopher Perrigo1www.strategy-business.com The Decreasing Lure of Electronics his holiday season, U.S. polls are reporting more great deals this season (up from 62 percent last year). confidence in the economy — but not because At the same time, there are signs that consumers are consumers have more money to spend than they tiring of the ongoing “misery index.” Fifty-three percent did last year. Indeed, because the economy is still sput- intend to buy at least one luxury item (up from 41 per- tering, overall retail sales this holiday season are likely to cent last year). be flat or only slightly up. The confidence may instead Consumers also seem to be looking forward to the be coming from a shift in expectations and habits. holiday season more than they did last year. Fully 61 Recession-driven consumer shopping patterns that percent expect to get together with family this year (up many people assumed were temporary are now becom- from 54 percent last year), and they are looking forward ing permanent. Retailers have adjusted many old prac- to throwing more parties: 53 percent expect to host tices since 2008, and they have some grounds for multiple gatherings for family, friends, and neighbors optimism — but only if they continue to be capable of (up from 45 percent last year). An appropriate theme rapid change. for holiday celebrations this year could be “I’m Still These insights are based on a survey of a 1,600-per- Standing”: 51 percent report that economic survival is a son informal panel made up of frequent retail shoppers, great reason for celebrating this year. store staff, and retail and consumer executives. We also conducted more than 150 interviews in stores, malls, and airports during August and September 2012. This In terms of consumer purchases, we expect that apparel research shows several distinct trends in consumer will be a hot category and that electronics may fade mind-set and behavior: slightly. The survey found 42 percent of consumers Overall, consumers will remain very cautious this reporting that they intend to buy clothing as gifts (up year. A full 52 percent will closely consider affordability from 37 percent last year). Anticipating sales and dis- in their shopping decisions (the number is even higher counts, however, consumers tell us that they plan to buy for lower-income demographics). Sixty-one percent of their apparel later than they did last year — many wait- consumers say they have “learned to live with less” (up ing until well after Black Friday (the major U.S. shop- from 53 percent last year). Consumers are optimistic ping holiday that falls in late November, just after about deals: 73 percent of consumers expect to find Thanksgiving).
  3. 3. Thom Blischok Nicholas Hodson Christopher Perrigo Also contributing to this article was Booz & Company partneris a senior executive advisor is a partner with Booz & is a senior executive advisor Karla Martin.with Booz & Company and the Company based in San with Booz & Company basedfirm’s chief retail strategist. Francisco. He leads the firm’s in Chicago. Previously, he wasBased in San Francisco, he retail practice in North the vice president of informa-specializes in growth strategy America, and formerly headed tion technology and VP ofand next-generation collabora- up the strategic initiatives Target India at the Targettion platforms for retail and function at Safeway Inc. Corporation.consumer packaged goodscompanies. 2 www.strategy-business.comthom.blischok@booz.com nicholas.hodson@booz.com christopher.perrigo@booz.com As for consumer electronics, only 38 percent of Consumers are increasingly viewing Black Friday as Capturing the Saleconsumers have these items at the top of their personal irrelevant: They start looking earlier and buying later,wish lists. Apparently, some demographic groups are and are moving online. As a result, retailers are dis-approaching high-tech saturation. Not surprisingly, for counting even earlier, seeking to convert these earlythose who are hoping for electronics, tablets and smart- shoppers. As always, some shoppers will wait to makephones top the list. their Christmas purchases at the last minute; in fact, weBlack Friday and Every Day One electronics category — home entertainment estimate that some 25 million shoppers will hit the— should remain strong; 62 percent of respondents stores on Christmas Eve, a 9 percent increase over lastreport that they will be shopping for these items. year. They will be expecting even better last-minuteHardware (such as sophisticated home theater equip- deals.ment), accessories, and media are all on people’s lists. Showcasing — browsing in a store before buyingAnd 3-D movies may finally break through into the liv- online — will be a major challenge for bricks-and-ing room, as a wave of superhero movies hits the stores mortar retailers this year. We found that 40 percent ofand meets up with 3-D TVs acquired over the last year. consumers now describe showcasing as their shopping Downloadable gifts will become a distinct and rap- strategy. Multichannel shopping will also be increasing-idly growing category this year. E-books, iTunes music ly popular. In this form of shopping, people use moredownloads, and movies will all be popular. “Virtual than one medium for a single purchase or group ofgoods” have clearly become an acceptable gift for many related purchases. They may research their products(for both giving and receiving). More than 45 percent of online but buy them in a store, buy them online forshoppers expect to give at least one downloadable gift pickup in a store, or buy a product in a store but buy itsthis year — and those items won’t even need wrapping! accessories online. Among some consumer groups, mul-With more parents buying Kindles and Apple products tichannel shopping will be the dominant path to pur-for ever-younger children (age 10 this year versus age 12 chase this year.last year), digital media sales look to remain healthypost-holiday as well. Gift cards will be a huge category again this holiday The good news for retailers is the willingness of shop-season. More than 80 million shoppers plan to purchase pers to start buying again — albeit cautiously and withgift cards this year, about 4 percent more than last year. a relentless and technology-enabled quest for value. The biggest challenge this season for bricks-and-mortar retailers in particular is how to drive more than their fairBargain seeking will, unsurprisingly, dominate con- share of showcasing activity to their own websitessumer behavior. Private-label goods (whether in elec- (rather than to Amazon or another competitor).tronics, apparel, or groceries) will see strong growth as Improved shopper confidence doesn’t do you muchconsumers seek greater value for their holiday dollar. good if your stores are just a showroom and someone
  4. 4. 3www.strategy-business.com else ultimately captures the sale. • Refresh your return and fraud policies to ensure What can a retailer do to capture sales in the store that your customers can return items bought online to or drive the consumer to its own website rather than a the store. competitor’s site? This is a formidable challenge, and the • Consider free shipping on targeted items or bas- retail industry as a whole is struggling to find answers. ket sizes, because shoppers are increasingly savvy about Here are some of the best practices we already see in their “all-in” costs. Last holiday season, free shipping place for this holiday season: was a major driver of online sales, and we expect more • Expect most or all of your customers to be simul- of the same this year. taneously browsing in your store and on their smart- • Use “we match online prices” messaging on the phone. Develop seamless digital and physical items most likely to drive overall price perception. experiences to exploit multichannel retailing, because • In apparel, increase your chances of “buy it now” shoppers will expect it. Make your digital experiences so conversion by making sure your fitting rooms are clean, compelling that your customer never feels the need to organized, and staffed with your best people. An enjoy- check out your competitors. able fitting room experience nearly always turns into a • Offer “buy-it-now” promotions at the shelf to purchase. turn browsers into buyers or to drive customers in your • Invest in preparing your online and mobile tech- store to your website. Give them incentives to purchase nology platforms for high volumes. Online shoppers are immediately instead of going to a competitor. For exam- quickly discouraged by slow websites and apps that ple, QR codes — the little square codes on products crash. that consumers can scan with their smartphones for fur- • Ensure that your sales associates are intimately ther product information, comparisons, and reviews — familiar with your website and your mobile offerings can be used as promotions to convert a sale. Let con- (such as apps) so that they can help customers navigate sumers scan a code to, for instance, have items shipped between your channels in real time. In a multichannel to their home immediately at no charge. world, nothing alienates a consumer more than a blank • Capture information about your customers as stare from a salesperson in response to “Well, on your they browse in-store (for example, through mobile apps website it says…” linked to your loyalty program), then ping them a day Some retail categories, such as food (in groceries or two later with a “too good to miss” promotion that and supermarkets), will have distinctive opportunities will increase your chances of conversion. this holiday season. Because of the drive for frugal cele- • Use loyalty points (most retailers have proprietary bration, there will probably be an increase in parties and loyalty schemes now) to drive conversion. For example, large home dinners — a trend no doubt viewed with tell consumers “you can earn double points if you buy some trepidation by the lead cook in the household. today in the store, triple points if you place an order Grocery retailers can help these home cooks with inter- online within 24 hours.” esting new side dishes and desserts, along with ready-cut
  5. 5. 4 www.strategy-business.com The Case for OptimismThe Regifting Conundrum ceed this holiday season. +and ready-washed salads and other ingredients. They regifting as a phenomenon and sell accessories that addcan also provide exhausted cooks with ideas for use some novelty and help the giver feel good about the giftbetween the major celebrations, such as creative recipes he or she is offering. In apparel, this could take the formfor using leftovers. of “updating last year’s looks,” ostensibly aimed at the The last year or two has seen a tremendous expan- owner of last year’s knitted top but actually aimed at thesion in farmers’ markets as a source for fresh groceries. A surreptitious regifter.supermarket can respond to this trend over the holidaysby hosting a holiday market out in front of the store(perhaps in a heated tent in cold climates), thus attract- Retailers are hearing a lot of somber forecasts these days:ing customers, building community spirit, and empha- Economic uncertainty is everywhere, and significantsizing the local store’s role in a successful and happy technology-driven disruptions are affecting the shop-holiday season. ping experience. But our research indicates that there is room for optimism — even compared with this time last year. Consumers are becoming more innovative and“Regifting” is another trend that could have a significant cautious with regard to spending, but many also seemimpact on retailers. According to the survey, 32 percent focused on celebrating with friends and family — andof shoppers are currently considering giving an as-yet- giving thanks for economic survival. They have a value-unused gift to someone else this season. Thirty-one per- seeking mind-set, but they will shop this year. Retailerscent of shoppers view this as an acceptable form of gift that recognize their needs and concerns, and tailor theirgiving (versus 25 percent last year). Of course, most strategies accordingly, are the ones most likely to suc-consumers will ensure that their “regift” is appropriatefor the lucky recipient, and many will consider append-ing a low-cost accessory or fresh packaging to make thegift appear new or personalized — or, perhaps, to salvetheir conscience! The regifting trend could hit retailers hard. We seetwo possible strategies for persuading frugal customersto spend. First, you can resist the regift. Emphasize whatis new and different about this year’s product, compareand contrast features (especially in electronics) or styleand trim (in apparel). The online environment providesa great forum for providing this kind of information toconsumers to help them choose the latest upgrade. Alternatively, why not embrace the trend? Accept
  6. 6. strategy+business magazineis published by Booz & Company Inc.To subscribe, visit strategy-business.comor call 1-855-869-4862.For more information about Booz & Company,visit booz.com• strategy-business.com• facebook.com/strategybusiness• http://twitter.com/stratandbiz101 Park Ave., 18th Floor, New York, NY 10178Looking Booz & Company Inc.© 2012 for Booz Allen Hamilton? It can be found at at www.boozallen.com