Holiday Shopping Data Roundup: $39 Billion to Be Spent Locally This Year

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The holiday season isn’t just a big time of year for retail; it’s also a big time of year for retail data. The stats come in fast and furious, like a horde of consumers racing into the mall to take advantage of a Black Friday limited-time, limited-supply offer.

One common trend they indicate: Purchasing is going to be more omnichannel than ever, so retailers need to be prepared. Here’s a rundown on some key data points for this holiday shopping season.

Where will they shop: The anticipated rise in digital commerce notwithstanding, most consumers plan to shop locally this holiday season. In a recent Yelp study, 64 percent of respondents said they will shop at local businesses. Among tech-savvy millennials, the figure was surprisingly higher, at 69 percent. The ability to find unique gifts, supporting the local economy, and convenience are the primary factors motivating holiday consumers to shop locally. Price is the biggest inhibitor against doing so, cited by 31 percent respondents in the Yelp study. Those are encouraging results, although presumably, they do not imply consumers will exclusively shop locally.

When will they shop: Flexible store hours and an ever-expanding holiday shopping season will make consumers’ path to purchase more discursive and possibly more scattered than before. In a ThoughtWorks survey, nearly 60 percent of consumers said they “shop all throughout the holiday season,” and one in four indicated they will save their shopping until the last minute, suggesting that retailers shouldn’t put all their eggs in the Black Friday basket. In fact, whereas one-third said they always shop on Black Friday, 20 percent said they never do. Yelp survey data revealed similar always-on shopping behavior, with 36 percent of consumers saying they will have started their holiday shopping by Thanksgiving and 52 percent indicating they will have done so by Small Business Saturday on November 28. Wanderful Media’s annual holiday shopping survey also uncovered signs of last-minute shopping behavior, with 31 percent of respondents saying they do most of their shopping in December vs. 32 percent during or before November.

How will they shop: Research from xAd and Swirl indicates shoppers are more likely to buy in-store despite the increasing incidence of showrooming. That said, smartphones remain an indispensable tool across the purchase process. Swirl found that 63 percent of consumers use their smartphone at least once a week to help with or prepare for shopping (among millennials, the figures rises to 70 percent), and 57 percent said they use their smartphone at least weekly while shopping in-store. Looking for offers and comparing prices are the leading in-store, smartphone-assisted behaviors, according to Swirl, comprising 57 percent and 52 percent of shoppers, respectively.

Retailers should expect a good portion of that smartphone-assisted shopping to take place in-app. In the Wanderful Media survey, two-thirds of all shoppers and 78 percent of millennials signaled they are willing to use shopping apps this holiday season. Nearly half of those surveyed said they use three or more shopping apps to plan their shopping activity or while in-store. Amazon, Walmart, and Target are the most widely used in-store, with RetailMeNot the leading non-retailer-specific app.

How much will they spend:  Almost half (49 percent) of adults plan to spend at least $500 on holiday shopping this year, according to the Wanderful Media study. Not surprisingly, a smaller share of millennials (36 percent) plan on spending $500 or more. Those figures are not specific to channel or location.

Using U.S. Census Bureau population data, Yelp calculated that local shoppers will spend an average of $258 per person. That adds up to a cumulative $38.7 billion going into independent retailer coffers this November and December.

Consumer spending on Small Business Saturday, which American Express launched in 2010 to promote shopping at independent local stores, has risen steadily with growing awareness of the day. It totaled $14.3 billion last year, up 25 percent from 2012, according to American Express, while the number of shoppers grew 19 percent, reaching 88 million in 2014. All this local activity has significant multiplier effects: SCORE claims that for $100 a consumer spends at a local business, $68 stays in town vs. just $43 if the same $100 is spent at a national chain.

Noah Elkin is Street Fight’s managing editor.