Holiday Spending to Rise as Black Friday Lures Shoppers

U.S. consumers will spend 11 percent more this holiday season, starting with a jump in shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving, while looking for discounts in stores and online, according to a study by consulting firm Accenture Plc

During the seasonal crunch, U.S. shoppers are forecast to spend an average of $646 on gifts, compared with $582 they planned to spend on average last year, according to a study released today by Dublin-based Accenture. Of those surveyed, 20 percent said they planned to spend more than last year while 62 percent said they will spend the same.

Accenture expects Black Friday to play an important role in the seasonal shopping, with 55 percent of U.S. consumers expected to make purchases on that day, a five-year high.

Though people will spend more overall, holiday shoppers will be “keenly focused on discounts and sales,” Accenture said. Economic and political uncertainty, with the government partially shut down, combined with higher payroll taxes, rising mortgage interest rates and limited gains in employment, have kept consumers wary of overspending. Consumer confidence fell to a five-month low in September.

Still, Accenture said the projected rise in spending comes as consumers “treat themselves after a tough year,” and enjoy increased discretionary income.

Accenture’s study, an online survey of 500 U.S. consumers conducted last month, is more optimistic than other researchers’, including the National Retail Federation, which said earlier this month that holiday retail sales could increase 3.9 percent. Deloitte LLP estimated last month sales could climb as much as 4.5 percent.

Accenture, however, said fewer consumers expect economic concerns to impact their shopping plans and only 18 percent said they would spend less than last year.

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Still, shoppers will be focused on discounts, with 94 percent indicating it will be an important part of their purchasing decisions. “Although retailers’ main draw on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday will be ’doorbuster’ deals, shoppers will be demanding discounts of 30 percent or more throughout the season,” Chris Donnelly, global managing director of Accenture’s retail practice, wrote in a statement.

Thanksgiving Day is also marking itself as an “established holiday season event,” with 38 percent of respondents saying they are likely to shop at four or more stores that day. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed said they had already started their holiday shopping or plan to do most of it by the end of November.

The most popular presents will be gift cards, followed by apparel, toys and electronics. Big-ticket items also saw a rise in projected sales and forty-two percent of shoppers are planning to use half of their holiday shopping dollars to make purchases online, Accenture said.

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