NPD’s Tenth Annual Holiday Retail Outlook

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Is This Holiday The Ghost of Christmas Past?

“With no new items rocking the consumers’ world or anything to feed a shopping frenzy it will be challenging to see significant growth," said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc.

The NPD Group, Inc., a leading market research company, released the results of its tenth annual survey of consumers’ holiday spending intentions. The study’s results suggest that overall this holiday could look a lot like last year’s. Also noteworthy in the study’s results is the growing importance to consumers of online shopping.

SEE CHART -- Holiday Spending Intentions 2011 vs 2010

This year the majority of consumers still say they plan to spend the same amount of money on holiday gifts (64 percent vs. 61 percent). The fewest number of respondents say they plan to spend more (9 percent vs. 9 percent).

“Looking at this year’s responses, I see consumers that aren’t willing to open their wallets and spend more vigorously,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc., “With more consumers telling us they plan to ‘spend about the same’ and no additional consumers planning to ‘spend more,’ I think we will see this holiday’s results look quite a bit like last holiday’s.”

Consumers tell NPD they plan to begin their shopping at or about the same this year as last year. This year almost 41 percent of consumers say they plan to start their holiday shopping on Thanksgiving weekend or later, compared to 40 percent last year.

The top categories consumers plan to shop this holiday, here again look very much like last holiday’s top ten list. Clothing, toys, and books are the chart toppers in 2011 as they were in 2010.

SEE CHART -- Items Consumers Plan to Buy as Gifts for Holiday 2011

“Look for these categories to be used as the door-buster deals in the early part of the holiday season and then again during the Post-Thanksgiving/Pre-Christmas ‘holiday lull,’” says Cohen, “Consumers will be courted more aggressively by retailers if they indeed do shop later.”

This year ‘where’ consumers tell NPD they plan to shop shows the increasing importance of online shopping. There is an increase of three points in the number of consumers planning to shop online this year versus last. Additionally, there is some encouraging news for the department store channel as more consumers plan to shop in them this holiday.

SEE CHART -- What Kinds of Stores Consumers Plan to Shop in for Holiday 2011

Discount stores are still consumers’ number one choice as a shopping destination. Online is again number two but the percentage of consumers saying they plan to shop online grew by three points this year. The good news for department stores is the percentage of consumers planning to shop in them grew by two points.

“Discounters are likely to be the most challenged retailers. They remain steadfast in trying to hang on to consumers that found them when it was all about lower prices,” said Cohen, “But now that consumers are looking for value and also willing to pay a little more, so we are seeing the discounters have a hard time hanging on to those consumers. That means that they will have to work very aggressively to lure shoppers in early and often with sales and name brands for less.”

A positive sign in this year’s study is in the number of consumers planning to ‘shop for themselves.’ This year 19 percent of respondents said they ‘will shop for themselves’ last year that number was 17 percent.

“This is one of most important contributors to growth. Without self-purchasing during the holiday season, growth is nearly impossible,” stated Cohen, “Seeing this number climb is a good sign that at least consumers are thinking of rewarding themselves and plan to take advantage of some of the good deals for themselves.”

Concluding, Cohen says, “With no new items rocking the consumers’ world or anything to feed a shopping frenzy it will be challenging to see significant growth. Now combine that with the many social and economic issues that have turned into distractions, it will be very challenging to get much growth from a consumer base that is in limbo.”

Source: The NPD Holiday Survey of Consumer Purchase Intentions was fielded to members of NPD's online consumer panel from September 6th to September 16th, 2011. The survey was fielded to a U.S. representative sample; the findings presented here represent 3681 completed surveys. NPD maintains an online panel of nearly 2 million consumers that tell us about their shopping habits.

About The NPD Group, Inc.
The NPD Group is the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries. Today, more than 1,800 manufacturers, retailers, and service companies rely on NPD to help them drive critical business decisions at the global, national, and local market levels. NPD helps our clients to identify new business opportunities and guide product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, and other functions. Information is available for the following industry sectors: automotive, beauty, entertainment, fashion, food, home and office, sports, technology, toys, video games, and wireless. For more information, contact us, visit, or follow us Twitter at and Become a fan of Marshal Cohen at and watch more on NPD’s YouTube channel.


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Beth Boyle
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