Do Not Lure Shoppers with Limited Sales Offers

Consumers buying for more people this year, but spending less on gifts; shopping increases at discount stores and decreases at department stores

Charleston, S.C.Nov. 15, 2013—According to the new America's Research Group (ARG) and Inmar Christmas & Holiday Shopping Forecast, retailers can expect a strong season going forward if they win Black Friday and continue with big discounts throughout the season. Retailers can expect sales to be up 2.5 percent or higher if shoppers see big discounts early.

“This season, the retailers’ destinies are in their own hands,” said Britt Beemer, chairman and CEO of America’s Research Group. “If retailers give consumers mega discounts throughout the season, it will be a very strong season, but if they try to play the game by luring shoppers with limited sale offers, there will be a lot of serious shopper rebellion.”

According to the forecast, consumers are looking for retailers to offer big discounts and big store-wide sales, and those retailers with big discounts will win. And the opportunity for real wins is out there. Fewer people are shopping less and spending less this season. 

The number of Americans feeling heavily pressured from debt lessened this year over last (from 21.4 percent in 2012 to16.5 percent in 2013) and the forecast shows that Americans will buy for more people this year (shopping for 11 to 15 people jumped up from 20.9 percent last year to 24.6 percent this year).  However, consumers are spending less for gifts (the price group dropping the most this year is $36 to $50, falling from 36.2 percent to 22.7 percent over last year), which indicates they are still very conservative.

Americans say they will buy more gift cards this year (up from 56.9 percent to 59 percent), and of those buying gift cards, more are giving in the $21 to $25 price range (up from 27.6 percent to 30.3 percent). Furthermore, the number of consumers planning to shop at Amazon and spend more at Amazon dropped significantly from 18.4 percent last year to 13.3 percent this year.

Clothing gifts are up from a year ago (jumping from 25.1 percent to 32.5 percent this year). Far more shoppers will head for discount stores for apparel this year (up from 25.4 percent last year to 30.7 percent this season). Clothing purchases for some department stores will be down (J. C. Penney down from 10.9 percent in 2012 to 9.4 percent this year and Sears down from 9 percent last year to 6.4 percent this season).  Fewer shoppers are making homemade gifts this year, dropping from 27.5 percent to 21.2 percent this year, and fewer are buying for themselves. Self-gifting is down this year from 39.7 percent last year to 33.1 percent this season. 

When asked, consumers who are spending less this holiday season, the number one answer and all-time-high reason is due to higher food prices, which is now at 30.4 percent up dramatically from 19.6 percent a year ago. “Higher food prices are a reality right now,” said John Ross, executive vice president, Inmar, and president, Inmar Analytics. “Consumers today are now using digital technology along with paper coupons to save money as they are shopping in the store. The growth in digital couponing is off the charts!”

“Although we’re seeing a growing number of Americans feeling less heavily stressed from the pressures of debt, they’re still very cautious about how much to spend at Christmas,” said Beemer. And Ross agrees, “For many consumers, the recession is definitely in the rear view mirror. However, families still face a number of budget pressures, as rising food prices are proving to be the coal in the stocking.”


  • Fewer people are shopping less and expect to spend less this season (27.8 percent in 2013 vs. 34.8 percent in 2012).
  • The number of consumers feeling a lot of pressure from debt lessened (16.5 percent in 2013 vs. 21.4 percent in 2012).
  • Of those spending less this Christmas season, higher gas/food prices is the reason (19.6 percent in 2012 vs. 30.4 percent in 2013).
  • The number of shoppers doing the majority of their Christmas shopping before Black Friday weekend rose (2.2 percent in 2012 vs. 9.6 percent in 2013).
  • The number of people they are buying gifts for rose in the 11 to 15 group (20.9 percent in 2012 vs. 24.6 percent in 2013).
  • The biggest negative this season is found in the price level of gifts they are buying ($21 to $25 is up from 17.2 percent in 2012 to 19.1 percent in 2013, while $26 to $35 is up from 20.0 percent in 2012 to 26.8 percent in 2013). 
  • The price group dropping the most is $36 to $50, falling from 36.2 percent in 2012 to 22.7 percent in 2013.
  • Fewer shoppers are giving homemade gifts (27.5 percent in 2012 vs. 21.2 percent in 2013).
  • Gift-card buying is up from 56.9 percent in 2012 vs. 59.0 percent in 2013).
  • Of those buying gift cards, more are giving in the $21 to $25 price range (27.6 percent in 2012 vs. 30.3 percent in 2013).
  • Fewer shoppers are buying something for themselves (39.7 percent in 2012 vs. 33.1 percent in 2013).
  • Those buying one large gift vs. mostly small is up (45.7 percent in 2012 vs. 51.3 percent in 2013).
  • Using credit cards last year dropped from 41.6 percent in 2012 to 36.4 percent in 2013.
  • Clothing gifts are up (25.1 percent in 2012 vs. 32.5 percent in 2013).
  • For clothing purchases, J.C. Penney is down10.9 percent in 2012 to 9.4 percent in 2013, and Sears is down 9.0 percent in 2012 to 6.4 percent in 2013.
  • Credit card balances higher this year are down from 35.5 percent in 2012 to 23.9 percent in 2013.
  • Amazon spending more levels are down from 18.4 percent in 2012 to 13.3 percent in 2013.
  • Discount store shopping for apparel is up (25.4 percent in 2012 to 30.7 percent in 2013).
  • No must-have toy this season is up from 42.1 percent in 2012 to 49.5 percent in 2013.

The ARG/Inmar research consisted of 1,000 telephone interviews conducted from November 1 to 4, 2013 at ARG headquarters in Charleston, S.C. The error factor is plus or minus 3.8 percent. The next ARG/Inmar shopping survey will be conducted November 8 to 11. The surveys will continue every week through the shopping season.

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