America’s Research Group and Inmar Holiday Shopping Survey Points to a “Season of Smiles” for Shoppers and Retailers

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Shopper planning, serious discounts, smartphone usage and gift-choice selectivity all combined with consumers’ desires to celebrate to bring joy to gift buyers looking for advertised deals and retailers prepared for an active season and ready to help customers stuff their stockings.

With less than 48 hours left in the 2013 holiday shopping season and a fresh winter storm threatening to complicate last-minute shopping, it’s impossible to predict exactly how the season will finish. But, in spite of inclement weather, security challenges and a somewhat compacted holiday shopping season, shoppers and retailers alike enjoyed more than a few celebratory moments during a retail season that has seen some very real ups and downs.

“Our surveys are showing us that shoppers are giving thought to every purchase,” says John Ross, president Inmar Analytics and EVP Inmar. “They’re considering convenience, price, promotions, service and immediacy of delivery – everything that optimizes the purchase experience. Only when their personal criteria have been met do they reward the retailer with their business,” adds Ross

Seasonal insights from the ARG / Inmar survey included:

The shopping season “ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” While more shoppers finished earlier this year than in recent years, waiting until the last minute is still the way for many -- with 32 percent of shoppers left with serious, unfinished shopping (at least 25 percent of their shopping left to do) – and the big day nigh. It looks to be a busy final day and a half for retailers.

Thanksgiving traditions continue to grow. With the Halloween candy passed out, Americans began planning a bigger Thanksgiving celebration this year – entertaining more guests and fitting more chairs around the table. Better than 25 percent of households anticipated hosting more family and friends for the Thanksgiving meal than they did last year. And, “more” meant a lot more. Better than 51 percent of those surveyed said that would be adding at least three guests and roughly 25 percent of those respondents indicated they would be hosting five or more additional visitors. The average guest list included almost nine diners seated at the Thanksgiving table. (Note: Data collected did not distinguish between adults’ and kids’ tables!) At the same time, almost 34 percent of those surveyed said they would spend more for food this year.

Extended Black Friday was a success. Despite some early negative reaction to stores opening on Thanksgiving, shoppers ultimately embraced the idea of an extended Black Friday and came out for a full weekend of spending. Friday still saw the most shopper traffic with 25 percent of shoppers making it their primary day for deal hunting but better than 13 percent of those polled finished their Thanksgiving meal and went in search of deals on Thursday night. And, the promised deals were in stock on both days. Among the shoppers surveyed, more than 86 percent reported that they were able to find the advertised specials they were seeking. When they found the deals, shoppers took advantage -- with almost 46 percent saying they spent more than planned because the deals were “too good to pass up.”

Food is still a big part of the fun. Shoppers spent the season looking in lots of places for gifts and deals – including the grocery store. Better than 50 percent of shoppers planned to give food as a gift this year with 49 percent having used a coupon in the grocery store in the last 30 days to help stretch holiday budgets.

Technology is taking off. While 54 percent of shoppers visited four or more stores looking for saving opportunities, those with smartphones leveraged them in the same effort -- 38 percent of shoppers with smartphones having reported using them to look for or buy holiday gifts.

Shoppers worked hard to stay on budget. (Not all were successful.) At the start of the shopping season, 42 percent of shoppers surveyed said their 2013 holiday gift budget would match last year’s and 71 percent said they were committed to staying on plan. Many shoppers kept that commitment – but with some interesting exceptions among those with higher shopping budgets. Some 23 percent of shoppers were looking to spend between $1,001 and $2,500 but the proportion of shoppers in that spending category grew a healthy three percentage points to 26 percent. And, the eight percent of shoppers anticipating spending more than $2,500 grew to double digits with more than 10 percent of shoppers joining that group of spenders.

The ARG/Inmar research consisted of a series of 1000 telephone interviews conducted each weekend from November 1 through December 22, 2013 at ARG headquarters in Charleston, SC. The error factor is plus or minus 3.8 percent.

About America’s Research Group
America’s Research Group, one of the nation’s foremost consumer research and strategic marketing firms, marked its 30th anniversary in 2009. CEO Britt Beemer is a key resource and advisor to leading brands and top retailers. He is author of The Customer Rules, published by McGraw-Hill. Britt Beemer is a winner of the 2012 American Business Award for Executive of the Year - Business Services and Company of the Year - Business Services.

About Inmar
Inmar is a technology company that operates intelligent commerce networks. Our platforms connect offline and online transactions in real time for leading retailers, manufacturers and trading partners across multiple industries which rely on Inmar to securely manage billions of dollars in transactions. Our Promotions, Supply Chain and Healthcare platforms enable commerce, generate meaningful data and offer growth-minded leaders actionable analytics and execution with real-time visibility. Founded in 1980, Inmar is headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with locations throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada.

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Sharon Joyner-Payne
Inmar, Inc.
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