2019 Holiday Shoppers Will Prioritize Family, the Earth, and Gift Cards too, Says Annual Survey

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For the 2019 holiday shopping season, the in-person experience will be back in fashion, according to the Annual Holiday Shopping Survey from Accenture. Released today, the survey results show online shopping slightly outpacing in-store buying. Looks like face-to-face conversations with sales associates, smelling a piped-in gingerbread scent, touching sweaters before buying them, and, in a thoroughly modern twist, making sure porch pirates don’t make off with gifts, all mean something to consumers.

Accenture says the results point toward a focus on in-store holiday shopping over online buying for consumers. The firm’s senior managing director and head of retail, Jill Standish, mentioned the phrase “human holiday” five times over the course of a phone briefing, saying consumers will prefer talking to human sales associates instead of letting algorithms help them make their decisions.

And in a really old-fashioned turn, Thanksgiving will also get a boost on the person-to-person front, with respondents saying the priority this year is spending time with family instead of hitting the mall. “We’re seeing a trend of entertaining at home, and not necessarily spending all of their time going out on Black Friday,” Standish said. Of respondents to the survey, 52% said they’re less likely to shop on Black Friday, half are less likely to shop on Thanksgiving, and 42% are less likely to shop on Cyber Monday.

Overall, the survey was filled with holiday cheer. “The lion’s share of the respondents are saying they’re going into the holidays with a positive attitude towards spending,” Standish added. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the report.

Consumers still prefer brick-and-mortar stores.

“We always hear [about] the demise of the store and ‘are stores closing?’ and ‘are people just going to be having things shipped to their homes?'” Standish said. However, the survey showed that respondents preferred to shop in brick-and-mortar stores over online shopping options. And 54% of shoppers reported finding “inspiration” for their gift-giving by browsing stores. “It actually falls ahead of things like recommendations from family and friends, wish lists, etcetera,” Standish added.

Brick and mortar retailers might have more reason to smile too, as it looks like the days of consumers browsing in stores but buying online are on the decline, Standish said. One possible reason: experiences with package theft or “porch piracy.” Of the survey’s respondents, 78% said they are taking preventive measures to avoid falling victim to package theft, which Standish said suggests either that they’ve previously experienced it or know someone who has.  (One 2017 study found that 26 million Americans—nearly 8% of the population—has experienced package theft.) Delivery tracking and notification apps are becoming more popular, with 29% of respondents saying they schedule deliveries for times when someone is home to receive the package. Just over one-fifth of respondents plan to avoid the hassles of home delivery altogether, and purchase all of their goods in-store.

Consumers want retailers to be “responsible.”

There’s been a serious uptick in the number of consumers who say they care about the environment, Standish said. Half of the survey’s respondents are planning to opt for delivery options that have less impact on the environment. About one-third would use recyclable packaging options given the choice, and 50% said they may opt out of wrapping gifts altogether. Over a third—38%—of shoppers would like retailers to report the carbon footprint that goes along with the delivery options they offer.

This push toward responsible retailing is backed by the results of McKinsey’s 2019 State of Fashion report, which says that 90% of Generation Z consumers believe brands have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues. Among Accenture’s age-diverse holiday shopping respondents, a full 45% said they are more likely to do their holiday shopping with retailers who “address wider social issues through their business practices and working conditions.”

Vintage and rental clothes are also on the rise, which could reflect more consumer awareness about the environmental impact of fast fashion. “Nearly a quarter (24%) of all respondents—and one third (34%) of older millennials—said they would be likely or extremely likely to rent clothes for holiday parties,” the survey reads. “Also, with people being critical of fashion waste, vintage seems to be ‘in vogue,’ as nearly half (48%) of respondents said they would consider giving second-hand clothing as gifts, and even more—56%—said they would welcome gifts of this kind for themselves.”

Gift cards and apparel will be the most popular gift categories.

When it comes to what people are planning to buy, the holiday spending forecast shows gift cards and clothing on top, with almost 2/3 of all respondents planning to buy some of each. Gift cards will likely account for 24% of planned spending per person, and clothing another 20%.

So how will toys fare? Kids can rejoice. Toys came in third across both cumulative and individual spending with 48% of all respondents planning to purchase toys. Of that group, toys will account for 18% of each person’s spending.

Hopefully they’ll remember to buy batteries too.

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