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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like an E-Holiday Reveals IRI Research

SymphonyIRI Survey Finds Internet Will Play Big Role in Helping Consumers Save Money This Holiday Season

CHICAGO, Oct. 18, 2011 – A whopping 71 percent of consumers earning less than $100,000 per year are planning to trim back their spending this holiday season, according to new research, “Holiday Shopping 2011,” released today by SymphonyIRI. In addition, 74 percent of consumers will be spending less than $800 in total on the holidays and 73 percent will begin shopping before Dec. 1.  These findings point to a holiday season filled with consumers doing their homework to find the best deals and most value for their money.

“Consumers are going to shop for gifts that help make the holidays bright, but they are going to do so with an eye toward keeping costs down,” said Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends, SymphonyIRI. “The Internet is going to play a big role in helping consumers stick to their budgets. In fact, 81 percent of consumers say they will be shopping online this year. This is a sizable jump from 2010, when 54 percent of consumers told us that they would do some of their holiday shopping online. Of course, the convenience and time saving option of shopping 24 hours a day is a big plus, but many consumers are also going to comparison shop before purchasing online or heading to an actual store.”

Ringing in the Holidays with Prudence
With 44 percent of consumers saying they are worse off financially today versus one year ago and 82 percent saying they think government actions are making a negative impact on the economy, it is no surprise that this uncertainty will impact holiday budgets. Findings from SymphonyIRI’s quarterly MarketPulse survey, conducted online in September 2011, reveal that consumers expect ongoing deterioration across a number of budget-related measures in coming year:

  • 70% are concerned about the price of food                                                           
  • 65% are troubled about the cost of utilities                                     
  • 58% are worried about gas prices                           
  • 53% are uneasy about the cost of borrowing/interest rates                        
  • 52% are anxious about the value of investments, including stocks, bonds, 401K, retirement accounts, etc.

These concerns will lead a number of consumers to cut back even further this year. SymphonyIRI’s Holiday Shopping 2011 survey results found that 26 percent plan to spend less on holiday gifts, 16 percent will reduce spending on celebration-related food and beverages and 11 percent will spend less on holiday beer, wine and spirits. However, even with the feelings of uncertainty, holidays are viewed as a special time, and consumers want their rituals to be commensurate with the importance of the season. It will just be a delicate balance for consumers.

Filling the Sleigh with Gifts
For 74 percent of consumers this year, gift-giving budgets will top out at $800, which is in line
with what was spent last year. However, budgets will be smaller for 26 percent of consumers.
Cut backs are happening across income brackets, but they are most prevalent among middle-income shoppers.

Planning is the name of the game this year, with 32 percent of shoppers relying more heavily on premade lists and only 39 percent of consumers saying they will purchase fewer unplanned gifts this year than they have in the past. With lists in hand, 75 percent of consumers will begin their shopping before Dec. 1.  While this timeline is similar to last year, one in five consumers are starting earlier in hopes of saving money.

Many consumers are timing their holiday shopping in order to accommodate budgetary needs. For instance, 46 percent want to spread spending out rather than making fewer, larger trips, 41 percent want to take advantage of sales, and 24 percent want to ensure availability of items they want to purchase.

To get the most for their money, consumers are turning to the Internet to help with their money-saving strategies. Interesting findings from the survey include:

  • 44 percent of consumers will use more coupons from retailer Web sites versus 54 percent, who will use about the same as last year
  • 42 percent of consumers will use more coupons from manufacturer Web sites versus 54 percent, who will use about the same as last year
  • 61 percent of consumers will use more coupons from group couponing Web sites versus 33 percent, who will use the same as last year
  • 48 percent of consumer will take advantage more often of promotions learned online versus 50 percent, who will leverage online promotions with the same frequency as last year
  • 43 percent of consumers will compare products on the Internet more often (consumer forums, blogs, etc.) versus 54 percent, who will do the same comparison shopping as last year

Consumers Tightening Their Belts at the Holiday Table
During the past few years, consumers have been eating out less and cooking more at home.  These behaviors are expected to continue on this path in the coming year. For holiday celebrations this season, 71 percent of consumers say they want to prepare the best meals possible, but they will be keeping a close eye on their food and beverage bills. Overall, 71 percent of consumers say they will spend the same on their holiday meals as they did last year, but 18 percent are tightening their belts a bit more and plan to spend less.

With affordability top of mind, consumers will still be leveraging some tried and true money-saving tactics in addition to turning to the Internet. For instance, 79 percent of consumers will be making their grocery purchase decisions before entering the store, 24 percent plan to buy more products in bulk this year than they have in the past, 37 percent will redeem more “reward points” for products, and 20 percent will rely more heavily on private label products.

So, where will consumers be shopping for their holiday meals? Grocery stores remain the most popular outlets for shopping and will attract 88 percent of shoppers. Forty-five percent of consumers say they will shop in club stores, 41 percent in mass merchandisers, 37 percent in supercenters, 8 percent in dollar stores and 7 percent in drug stores.

SymphonyIRI Holiday Webinar
SymphonyIRI is offering a free webinar, entitled “Holiday Shopping 2011: What Consumers Can Expect in Their Stockings This Year,” on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 11 a.m. CT. The webinar will highlight findings from the newly released SymphonyIRI Holiday Shopping 2011 report and
will be hosted by Susan Viamari, editor of Times & Trends. To register for the webinar, please visit:

About SymphonyIRI
SymphonyIRI, formerly named Information Resources, Inc. (“IRI”), is the global leader in innovative solutions and services for driving revenue and profit growth in CPG, retail and healthcare companies.  SymphonyIRI offers two families of solutions: Core SymphonyIRI solutions for market measurement and Symphony Advantage solutions for enabling new growth opportunities in marketing, sales, shopper marketing and category management.  SymphonyIRI solutions uniquely combine content, analytics and technology to deliver maximum impact. SymphonyIRI helps companies create, plan and execute forward-looking, shopper-centric strategies across every level of the organization.  For more information, visit

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SymphonyIRI Contacts:
John McIndoe
Phone: +1 (312) 474-3862

Shelley Hughes
Phone: +1 (312) 474-3675