A penny-pinching Christmas

October 28, 2011

More early planning of holiday-related store trips push supermarkets to influence shoppers online.

The hot look this Christmas season could be the librarian glasses sported by actress Zooey Deschanel in New Girl – because holiday shoppers will be diligently scouring websites, deals, promotions and circulars for the best savings.

It’s an obvious sign of how the middle class will be cutting back. More than seven out of 10 (71%) of consumers earning less than $100,000 plan to spend less this holiday. In all, 74% will buy less than $800 in goods, and 73% plan to start shopping early, before Dec. 1 in their quest to save, revealed findings of the SymphonyIRI Group Holiday Shopping 2011 survey.

Their biggest tool will be online searches:  81% say they’ll shop via the Internet this holiday season, up from 54% a year ago. Some will shop this way for the 24/7 convenience, while others will compare prices and products before buying online or going to physical stores.

Another popular planning tool will be shopping lists, said 32% of respondents. Also, 44% expect to use more coupons from retailer web sites, and 42% will use more coupons from manufacturer web sites.

Incredibly, 79% will make their grocery purchase decisions before entering the store.

What’s weighing on shoppers? Nearly half (44%) feel they’re worse off financially now than a year ago, and 70% are concerned about the price of food, found SymphonyIRI’s latest MarketPulse survey. 

As a result, the holiday survey found, 26% expect to spend less on holiday gifts, 16% will spend less on holiday foods and beverages, and 11% will spend less on beer, wine and spirits.

The good news for supermarkets:  they’ll attract 88% of holiday-meal shoppers, compared with wholesale clubs (45%), mass merchandisers (41%), supercenters (37%), dollar stores (8%) and drug stores (7%), the data show.

The Lempert Report takeaway from these findings: supermarkets can’t under-estimate the importance of an integrated brick-and-click strategy. Shoppers are well on the path to purchase before the grocer sees them, and early influence is key to winning trips.