"Consumers are feeling better about the economy compared to last year, and they plan to take advantage of sales during key periods," says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group. "But this year's holiday will be a tricky one for retailers. With fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, government distractions and lack of newness in the marketplace, retailers will have to rely more on promotions to excite the consumer."
Comparison shopping and comparing prices online remain consumers' top pre-purchase actions. One-third of consumers plan to buy all of their holiday gifts on sale.
Consumers' purchasing plans are similar to last year, with the same top 10 items on their holiday shopping list.
"With no new, trendy items, besides some updated versions of the same hot products from past years, consumers will not shop with fear due to lack of inventory. The must-have items will also be available at a wider variety of retailers, minimizing the panic shopping of years past," says Cohen.
Overall, the holiday shopping season will get off to an earlier start compared to last year, with the survey showing that many consumers started shopping before Thanksgiving.
"Consumers who plan to shop early expect the retailers to respond with extended store hours, and better deals offered earlier," says Cohen.
The online channel grew 5 percent compared to last year. High-income consumers, earning $75,000 or over, are more likely to shop this year on e-commerce sites. By comparison, other channels remained stable.
"Researching online for the best deals will play a bigger role this year with social media continuing to influence consumers' holiday purchases," says Cohen. "The expansion of Black Friday weekend deals will also be a major player in the discount offerings. Look for promotions to start well ahead of Black Friday to create a much greater consumer opportunity for stores and online."
The NPD Holiday Spending Survey of Consumer Purchase Intentions was fielded to members of NPD's online consumer panel from September 3rd to September 11th, 2013. The survey was fielded to a U.S. representative sample; the findings presented here represent 4,000 completed surveys. NPD maintains an online panel of nearly 2 million consumers that tell us about their shopping habits.