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Deloitte Study: Happy Holidays on the Way, Without the Ribbons and Bows

Only one-third of holiday budgets go to gifts; Online spending expectations exceed in-store for the first time.

The evolution of the 2017 holiday retail environment

Navigate the timeline below to see Deloitte's evolving analysis of the holiday retail season.

NEW YORK, Oct. 24, 2017 – Brighter spirits may fuel a diverse mix of spending on experiences, self-gifting and gifts for others this holiday shopping season, according to Deloitte’s 32nd Annual Holiday Survey of consumer spending intentions and trends.

Gift spending accounts for just one-third of household holiday budgets, but there is still plenty of holiday cheer to go around

  • Gift spending intentions remains stable compared with last year, averaging $430 among survey respondents, who also plan to purchase 15 gifts this year.
  • Celebrations including holiday entertaining and socializing outside of home represent roughly 40 percent of total holiday spending, or $480.
  • Roughly one-quarter of respondents say they plan to gift "experiences — such as concert tickets, vacations and dining out (27 percent) — or plan to host and attend holiday events with friends and family (24 percent), instead of a traditional gift exchange."
  • Total holiday spending is expected to average $1,226 — including gifts and gift cards, along with non-gift categories (non-gift clothing, home/holiday furnishings, entertaining at home, socializing away from home and other holiday-related spending). That number nearly doubles among households earning $100,000 or more, averaging $2,226.
  • Healthy spending intentions coincide with a rosier consumer outlook. Roughly 8 in 10 (81 percent) of respondents say their household financial situation is the same or better than last year, up from 63 percent five years ago.

Online spending surges ahead of in-store after equally sharing shoppers' dollars in 2016

  • Survey respondents intend to spend 51 percent of their budget online, compared with 42 percent in-store. In last year's survey, online and in-store comprised an equal share, at 47 percent each. Until this tie in 2016, people planned to spend more in-store.
  • Higher-income households are even more inclined to buy online: Those earning $100,000 expect 57 percent of their spending will be online, and 39 percent in-store.
  • Online destinations are also widening the gap among places consumers plan to shop for gifts. This year, 55 percent of respondents plan to shop online for gifts, increasing its lead over mass merchants at 44 percent. Department stores are a distant third at 28 percent, down 3 percentage points from last year.
  • When shopping on a smartphone, more people are inclined to use dedicated retailer apps or payment apps when making purchases. Roughly 1 in 5 (22 percent) of respondents using smartphones for holiday shopping think they'll pay for purchases in-store with a mobile wallet app. However, nearly twice that number, 40 percent, anticipate using a retailer's app on their smartphone; and 36 percent plan to use a mobile payment app during the holiday season.

Gifts may have a little more sparkle this year

  • Gift cards and clothing tie for the No. 1 gift people intend to purchase, with nearly half of respondents (49 percent) planning to buy these items for others this holiday season. Electronics (42 percent), gift cards (39 percent) and cash (36 percent) are what people say they want most this year.
  • Deloitte's survey reveals a healthy uptick in higher-end category purchases over the past five years. The percentage of people who plan to buy jewelry as a gift rose from 18 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2017; and the cosmetics/fragrances/health and beauty category grew from 18 percent to 29 percent.
  • More than half (53 percent) of people say they prefer to buy gifts that are indulgences that people may not buy for themselves.
  • The holiday season is also a prime occasion to splurge on oneself: More than 4 in 10 (44 percent) say they'll wait for holiday sales to buy other larger or big ticket items for themselves or their household. Half (50 percent) of respondents say they'll shop for themselves while shopping for others.

“The amount people are actually spending on gifts remains steady compared with prior surveys, but we’ve watched the mix of total holiday spending shift incrementally over the last five years,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader. “It’s the lure of shopping and the experience that is flourishing and likely to remain in high demand — all which bodes well for retailers that have created an experience blending one-of-a-kind items, inspiration, uncomplicated navigation and frictionless transactions”.

“Whether a retailer is online or store-based, their digital influence is one of the strongest cards to play this holiday season. Even though 80 percent of people said they expect the majority of their shopping will fall in late November onward, decisions about where they’ll shop and what they buy will be largely determined by the digital interactions occurring now. In the survey, we found that retailers have a 75 percent probability of converting a desktop or laptop shopper to a purchaser along with a 59 percent probability of converting a smartphone shopper.”

The full survey results can be found here. For more information about Deloitte’s 2017 Annual Holiday Survey, including the full report and infographic, visit here or follow us @DeloitteCB.

About the Survey
This survey was developed by Deloitte and conducted online by an independent research company Sept. 6-18, 2017. A national sample of 5,085 consumers aligned with the U.S. Census for age and income was polled which has a margin of error for the entire sample of plus or minus 1 to 2 percentage points.

About Deloitte
Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including more than 85 percent of the Fortune 500 and more than 6,000 private and middle market companies. Our people work across more than 20 industry sectors to make an impact that matters — delivering measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to see challenges as opportunities to transform and thrive, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthy society. Deloitte is proud to be part of the largest global professional services network serving our clients in the markets that are most important to them.

Media contacts:

Courtney Flaherty
Public Relations
Deloitte Services LP
+ 1 203 905 2708

Look again at our infographic, interactive trend data, and dive deeper into the survey report on Deloitte Insights.

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