Holiday cross-stitch

Analysis

2017 holiday retail survey

An annual analysis of the peak shopping season

Holiday retail spending is bucking trends this season with only one-third of holiday budgets going toward gifts. Online spending is expected to exceed in-store for the first time. In addition to gifts for others this year, spending on experiences and self-gifting increased. Explore more consumer spending trends in our 32nd annual holiday survey.

The evolution of the 2017 holiday retail environment

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

Holiday shopping: What, where, and when?

The holidays are known for bringing friends and families together. This year, our survey respondents are taking this to heart with plans to spend more on experiences and celebrations than in the past. In fact, approximately one-quarter of survey respondents say they prefer to buy gifts that can’t be wrapped up in a bow:

27 percent of respondents said they prefer to buy gifts that are an experience and 24 percent indicated they plan to host or attend more holiday events with friends and/or family than participate in a traditional gift exchange.

That’s not to say that physical gifts are totally out of style as one-third of holiday budgets will go toward physical gifts. The dog walker, piano teacher, or the trusted mail carrier will still appreciate a token gift. Gift spending remains flat at $430 and an average of 14.7 gifts this year.

Gifts can certainly add up. The average consumer is expected to spend an average of $1,226 during the holiday shopping season. That number nearly doubles to an average of $2,226 among households earning $100,000 or more.

Disposable income appears to be healthy with roughly 8 in 10 (81 percent) of respondents reporting that their household financial situation is the same or better than last year. This number is up from 63 percent five years ago.

The Internet isn’t just for browsing anymore

In past holiday retail surveys, we would point out that consumers were combing the Internet for deals, comparing prices, and looking for recommendations. But when it came time to make the transaction, shoppers would hit the stores.

In last year's survey, online and in-store purchases comprised an equal share, at 47 percent each. This year, we saw a jump in the number of consumers who were doing research online and making purchases there.

Survey respondents plan to spend 51 percent of their budget online, compared with 42 percent in-store.

Here are some additional findings of online purchasing:

  • Respondents earning $100,000 or more expect 57 percent of their spending will be online and 39 percent in-store.
  • 55 percent of respondents plan to shop online for gifts, increasing online shopping’s lead over mass merchants, where 44 percent of those polled plan to shop.
  • At 28 percent, and down 3 percentage points from last year, department stores placed a distant third behind the Internet and mass merchants as a shopping destination.

Usage of the smartphone in the shopping journey

Smartphone users are more are inclined to use dedicated retailer apps or payment apps when making purchases. When it comes to smartphone purchases:

  • 22 percent of respondents using smartphones for holiday shopping think they'll pay for purchases in-store with a mobile wallet app
  • 40 percent anticipate using a retailer's app on their smartphone
  • 36 percent plan to use a mobile payment app during the holiday season
  • Retailers have a 59 percent probability of converting a smartphone shopper to purchaser and a 75 percent probability of converting a desktop or laptop shopper

Gifts may have a little more sparkle this year

Our survey reveals a healthy uptick in higher-end category purchases over the past five years. In fact, the percentage of shoppers who plan to gift jewelry rose from 18 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2017. The number of consumers who plan to buy cosmetics, fragrances, or health and beauty items grew from 18 percent to 29 percent.

Survey respondents also report that they plan to treat themselves this holiday season. With an increase in holidays sales and deals, who could resist?

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.

What we learned from the survey findings this year is that whether a retailer is online or store-based, its digital influence is one of the strongest cards to play this holiday season.

Eighty percent of people expect the majority of their shopping to take place in late November onward. But decisions about where they’ll shop and what they’ll buy will be largely pre-determined by digital interactions that are occurring now. Retailers must get ready to lure shoppers through a memorable experience.

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

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