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Shoppers Are ‘Merrier About Money’ This Year

Spending should rise this holiday season.

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About 55 percent of shoppers are “merrier about money” this year and report a better household financial situation than last year, according to a new survey.

Among shoppers who expect to spend more this season (34 percent vs. 32 percent last year), 45 percent attribute it to improved personal finances and longer lists, estimates Synchrony Financial (NYSE: SYF), a consumer financial services company. These factors are helping to drive a predicted holiday sales lift of between 3.6 percent and 4 percent.

Motivated to manage the stress of the season and their budgets, more than half of holiday shoppers plan to start their gift buying earlier this year to find deals and help spread out spending, according to Synchrony’s Annual Holiday Shopping Study.

To make the most of their money, shoppers are seeking out sales (85 percent) and setting a holiday budget (59 percent compared to 53 percen last year). Even with favorable finances, the ability to manage their budget with extra holiday expenses is cited as a key concern among survey respondents.

“Consumer confidence continues to improve and we see it shaping the season in the form of increased sales,” said Bart Schaller, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Synchrony Financial. “However, caution overrides personal optimism, and shoppers tell us they’re carefully planning, pacing and prioritizing their holiday purchases to stay on schedule and on budget.”

Over 1,600 shoppers nationwide participated in the pre-holiday online survey conducted in October.

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Although November and December mark the official holiday sales season, half of survey respondents report budgeting all year for holiday expenses, and 28 percent purchase presents throughout the year. Other ways shoppers are planning ahead and purchasing earlier in an effort to ease budget pressures and enjoy the season include:


Purchase Planning and Payment Preferences

  • For those who haven’t completed their gift buying, 42 percent of respondents say they plan to begin shopping before Black Friday; 28 percent intend to purchase after Thanksgiving; and 67 percent plan to wrap up their shopping by mid-December.
  • Layaway is an option 30 percent of shoppers plan to use this season, up from 25 percent last year.
  • Most shoppers (66 percent) say they intend to use credit to buy holiday gifts, seeking to earn rewards.
  • The majority (67 percent) of shoppers tell us they’re planning to give gift cards this holiday season, and 32 percent say they will buy more than last year. Gift cards, a new smartphone, money and time with family top most adult wish lists. More than 60 percent of survey participants agree they “still splurge” on holiday shopping.


‘Tis the Season for Technology

Whether finding the best price, searching creative gift ideas or parking at the mall, digital tools help U.S. consumers save time and money during one of the busiest seasons of the year. More insights from research of online and in-store shopping preferences include:

  • Smartphones are now an important part of the purchase experience for both in-store and online shoppers. Synchrony found that 82 percent of shoppers report they regularly comparison shop to get the best price. In addition to using their phones to research prices and products, shoppers find and redeem coupons and make purchases.
  • More than half of holiday shoppers say the best deals are online, and 37 percent report they plan to do more of their buying online this year due to the ability to shop any time, variety and convenience, competitive shipping offers and faster delivery options.
  • While online sales represent a growing share of total spending, stores remain the primary purchase channel for the vast majority of holiday shoppers. More than 60 percent of gift buyers report holiday shopping is still more fun for them in the stores, and 23 percent appreciate the unique seasonal spirit offered in-store.

Shoppers Are ‘Merrier About Money’ This Year

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