Consumer spending for the holiday season

September 29, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
In the midst of this economic downturn, Michael Finney has insight into what consumers should look out for this holiday season.

The holidays are important to Americans, and this year much more so than ever before.

It's the most celebratory and social time of the year and loaded with tradition, family and spiritual meaning. Holiday shopping had always been important to retailers, for many it's 20 to 30 percentof their annual revenue. Not to mention that 20 percent of Americans work in a retail-related industry.

But this year it's also linked to the economic health of our nation. As nearly 2/3 of our economy is linked to consumer spending, everyone from economists and politicians to homeowners and, of course, retailers are holding their breath.

Survey says:

  • National Retail Federation: 2.2 percent increase from last year (last year 2.4 percent increase, 10 year average is 4.4 percent)
  • Deloitte: 2.5 - 3 percent increase from last year
  • TNS Retail Forward 1.5 percent increase from last year

Kit says: It'll be a different kind of shopping

  • Luxury Lipsticks Instead of Designer Handbags
  • The Return of the $25 Gift
  • The New Consumer Mantra: "Money Doesn't Buy Happiness"
  • Electronics and Technology are the New "Practical" (wink, wink) Gift
  • Procrastination then Panic (only 27 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year)
  • Bigger Black Friday
  • Less self-gifting

This year's bigger spenders are: male, single, younger, online

The winners and worriers in retail

Winners:

  • Discounters like Wal-Mart, Costco
  • Food
  • Electronics and Technology
  • Online - 80 percent will offer free shipping (plus gas savings and price comparison options)

Worriers:

  • Department Stores
  • Furniture
  • Apparel
  • Dining Out
  • Travel

What are retailers doing to get ready for this?

  • Lower inventories
  • Smaller staffs
  • Sales: Bigger, early, more often
  • Incentives, promotions targeted toward big spenders, rewards
  • Lots of short-term promotions to fuel a "might miss out" feeling in consumers
  • Less advertising, more online incentives
  • Stricter return policies

About Kit Yarrow
Kit Yarrow is an award-winning consumer research psychologist and a professor of psychology and business. She's spent the last 15 years using the skills and insights she acquired as a clinical psychologist to research, understand and predict why people shop, what they'll buy and how they relate to brands and products. Kit's book, Gen buY, will be published by Jossey-Bass/Wiley on 2009.

Kit chairs the Psychology Department of Golden Gate University where she has a joint appointment as a professor of both psychology and business. She's been a guest professor of consumer behavior at universities around the world, from Slovenia to Malaysia, including the Helsinki School of Economics and U.C. Berkeley.

Kit's a frequent speaker to business and trade organizations and is a regularly quoted consumer expert by media outlets that include Good Morning America, US News & World Report, Marketplace, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and her favorite: Michael Finney on KGO.

Kit Yarrow, Ph.D.
Consumer Psychologist
Professor of Psychology and Business at Golden Gate University
kyarrow@ggu.edu


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