87% of Americans to spend as much or more on holiday shopping this year, and 48% say they will switch brands if tariffs hike prices more than 10%, according to AlixPartners poll

03 October 2018

37% say their purchases of American-made products will increase this coming year

NEW YORK (Oct. 3, 2018) – Coming off an unexpectedly robust 2017 winter-holiday season in which retail sales in the US jumped 6.1% versus the year before, 87% of Americans say they will spend as much or more this season, with over a third (36%) saying it’ll be more. However, shopping habits in today’s “trade-war” environment could be a lot different than a year ago, as 48% say they’re willing to switch brands if tariffs on the products they purchase increase prices more than 10%, plus 37% say they plan to purchase more American-made products in the year ahead. That’s all according to a new survey of more than 1,000 US consumers released today by AlixPartners, the global consulting firm.

The survey also finds that 33% of US consumers plan to do the majority of their holiday shopping online this season, up from 29% in AlixPartners’ survey last year, and only 4% said they don’t plan to make any online holiday purchases at all, versus 7% in last year’s survey. However, brick-and-mortar retail also stood out in the survey: a whopping 94% of respondents said they are planning to perform various shopping activities in-store this season—from browsing to trying out products to returning products. That’s up from 88% in last year’s survey.

Additionally, and in another sign that consumers today are integrating online and in-store activities into their overall shopping behaviors, 84% of those polled said they have conducted online research during the physical-store shopping process, up from 80% in last year’s survey. And, by the same token, 34% (compared to 30% in last year’s survey) said if they need to return a holiday item purchased online, they want to be able to return it to a physical store, and 50% (compared to 45% in the 2017 survey) said they plan to buy products online but pick them up in a store.

Among other findings in the survey:

  • 51% of respondents said they think the economy is doing better than a year ago, and 45% think it’ll be better yet a year from now.

  • 47% said their personal financial outlook is better than a year ago, and 25% attributed their outlook today to an increase in pay, 18% attributed it to a new job, and 14% attributed it to more stability in their job or pay.

  • Those polled said that in the past year their percentage of online purchases in 11 major product categories—consumer electronics, apparel and footwear, sporting goods, DIY/hardware, appliances, homes furnishings, luggage/handbags/briefcases, toys, health/beauty/cosmetics, and groceries—has increased versus what they reported in last year’s survey, with the toys category seeing the biggest jump: to 31% who said they’ve made a purchase, versus 23% in last year’s survey.

Roshan Varma, a director in the Retail practice at AlixPartners and one of the authors of the survey, said: “We saw a dramatic degree of change in consumer sentiment and potential holiday shopping habits in this year’s survey. Retailers that are able to successfully adapt to this these changes will be the ones most likely to gain market share this holiday.”

Joel Bines, global co-leader of the AlixPartners’ Retail practice and a managing director at the firm, said: “While consumer confidence appears to be strong going into this year’s holiday, retailers should be as cautious as they are optimistic. Today’s political landscape, including the elections in November, throw yet another wild card into the deck being dealt out to retailers, and that’s on top of the existing pressures of dealing with today’s online-all-the-time consumer.”

David Bassuk, also global co-leader of AlixPartners’ Retail practice and a managing director at the firm, said: "For any retailer, whether brick-and-mortar, online, or omnichannel, what’s key this holiday season is flawless execution of the basics. And that includes having an integrated strategy of merchandising, marketing, distribution, and customer engagement.”

The AlixPartners survey follows on the heels of the release on Sept. 17 of the firm’s annual US holiday forecast, based on a proprietary statistical methodology, which forecast an increase in holiday sales this season of 3.1% to 4.1%.

About the survey

The AlixPartners US Retail Holiday-Outlook Survey was administered online Aug. 26-28, 2018, and polled 1,011 adult consumers, across all major regions, demographics, and income levels in the United States.

About AlixPartners

AlixPartners is a results-driven global consulting firm that specializes in helping businesses successfully address their most complex and critical challenges. Our clients include companies, corporate boards, law firms, investment banks, private equity firms, and others. Founded in 1981, AlixPartners is headquartered in New York, and has offices in more than 20 cities around the world. For more information, visit www.alixpartners.com.