SOURCE: The Boston Consulting Group

The Boston Consulting Group

November 19, 2015 10:26 ET

2015 Holiday Spending Will Be Tepid, According to Boston Consulting Group Consumer Survey

Few Americans Plan to Spend More Than Last Year; Little Enthusiasm Expressed for Trying New Brands or Black Friday Adventures

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Nov 19, 2015) - Americans will be "tight and frugal" with their spending this holiday season, according to a survey of over 10,000 consumers completed this week by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

Nearly three-quarters of Americans (70%) say they will not spend more this year than they did last holiday season. And 58% indicate they won't be very adventurous: they will hunt gifts based on friends' and family members' wish lists and stay with tried-and-true brands.

"This holiday season, consumers are going to be cautious and frugal. Expect at best a 4.5% increase in spending over last year and a tepid Black Friday," said BCG Senior Partner Michael J. Silverstein, author of Rocket: Eight Lessons to Secure Infinite Growth (McGraw-Hill, October 2015).

According to the survey, consumers will spend on average $993 for the holidays, with a median spend of only $500. (For high-income consumers, this represents .5% of income; for middle-income consumers, it's 1-2.2%.)

Two in 10 people say they're going to be conservative because the economy is challenging, and 17% say it's because they're trying to increase their savings.

Among the other survey insights:

  • Less than half of consumers (43%) say they plan to shop on Black Friday. They say they will stay home and wait until later in the holiday season to buy their gifts.

  • Millennials are more likely than older shoppers to search for a good deal this holiday season: 63% expect to shop on Black Friday, compared to 48% of Gen Xers and 26% of Baby Boomers.

  • Consumers will spend the most on clothing and consumer electronics, as well as through e-commerce channels. "These categories should see sales growth in the high single digits over last year," Silverstein said. Consumers report lukewarm interest in luxury goods and cars.

Said Silverstein, "Spending is going to be fixed this holiday season. People will substitute one category for another, and one shopping channel for another. There will be little splurging or lavishness. If someone buys the big TV or new smart phone, he won't also buy the sweater. If she buys a gift online, the mall store will be the loser."

"There's a message in these findings for retail and consumer businesses. When spending goes conservative, people default to brands they know and love and don't experiment. The tried-and-true brands will be able to sell at full price. They're the ones that have engaged consumers, focused on their best customers and have turned them into apostles who tell their friends," he added.

Consumers say Amazon, Netflix, Apple, Samsung, H&M, Under Armour will earn their Christmas spend.

Silverstein's book Rocket describes how the best brands, such as Amazon, The Container Store and Zappos, have achieved decades-long success and sustained loyalty and growth by focusing most of their resources on wooing a select few "apostle" customers.

For more information, a copy of Rocket or an interview with the authors, please contact Katarina Wenk-Bodenmiller of Sommerfield Communications at +1 (212) 255-8386 or katarina@sommerfield.com.

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