Hottest Items for the Holidays

Online retailers should have plenty of reason to feel cheery this holiday season. Retail Forward is projecting online retail sales in the U.S. will reach $17.5 billion in Q4 2003, the holiday season. eMarketer figures online retail sales in the U.S. will hit $55 billion by the end of this year, and Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent) anticipates online retail sales will grow to over $52 billion this year.

Where’s the money going? Toys top many lists and eBay has picked some of the hottest for the holidays:

  • GI Joe 40th Anniversary Figures (Hasbro)
  • Hokey Pokey Elmo and Limbo Elmo (Fisher-Price)
  • Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Figures (Art Asylum)
  • Neopets Voice Activated Plush (Thinkway)
  • PowerTouch Learning System (Fisher-Price)

In the grown-up toys arena, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reported that nearly three-quarters of all U.S. households claim they are likely to purchase at least one consumer electronics product as a gift in the 2003 holiday season, and 71 percent of consumers expect to visit electronics brick-and-mortar stores during their holiday gift-buying hunt.

According to the CEA survey, the average consumer will purchase approximately 7 electronics products this holiday season, up from 5 products in 2002, boosting total electronics gift sales by 4 percent compared to the 2002 holiday shopping season.

So what consumer electronics specifically will sell well? DVD players are topping the list of electronics gift items likely to be purchased this season for the third consecutive year, with 31 percent of consumers likely to make the purchase. The CEA hot list, also includes:

  • Digital cameras (24 percent)
  • Video gaming systems (20 percent)
  • Wireless phones (19 percent)
  • Portable MP3 players (16 percent)
  • Desktop, laptop or notebook PCs (13 percent)
  • HDTV (12 percent)

BIGresearch is also reporting that its 90-day outlook for retail is looking bright as the holiday season fast approaches. According to its figures, it looks like there will be good news for kids of all ages: sales of toys and games are up, as are CDs, DVDs, videos, sporting goods and books. Sales of women’s dress and casual wear are also showing signs of improvement.

What’s not doing so well? Home improvement and, not surprisingly for this time of year, lawn and garden.

An October 2003 CoolSavings, Inc. survey of more than 1,700 individuals revealed that while most of those surveyed (81 percent) said that they research gift items online to save time before purchasing, a significant majority (82 percent) said that they still intended to buy most of their holiday gifts in a traditional store. The firm found that the most researched items were electronics (56 percent); toys (38 percent); books and music (37 percent); and clothing (33 percent).

Of those surveyed, almost all (91 percent) said that even if they purchased all of their gifts online, they would still window shop at traditional stores during the season.

Of those that still intended to shop online this season, free shipping was the strongest incentive at 34 percent, followed by convenience (33 percent); and the ability to quickly comparison shop (23 percent).

Despite their buying preferences, most consumers still wanted to experience the emotional aspects of holiday shopping – 32 percent wanted to experience “the feeling of the season;” 16 percent liked the tradition of shopping with family and friends; and 4 percent said they liked to look at store decorations.

Not Everyone Sees Blue Skies
The NPD Group also released its survey of consumer holiday buying intent – and they are singing a different tune. The survey results claim that this holiday shopping season could be just as challenging for retailers as last year, and that consumer shopping excitement remains chilly.

According to NPD’s survey, 68 percent of American consumers indicated they plan to spend the same amount this holiday as last year, 19 percent of consumers indicated they plan to spend less this year and only 13 percent plan to spend more than last year.

On average, NPD’s survey respondents plan to spend $637 this holiday season – maybe as a result of the answers to this CoolSavings question: When asked if the current presidential administration has put more or less money into their pockets for spending this holiday season, 70 percent said less and 30 percent said more.

There is a familiar tone to consumer purchase intent for most categories, NPD’s consumer intent results breaks down as follows:

  • 66 percent say they will buy clothing
  • 53 percent plan to buy toys
  • 39 percent will purchase music this year
  • 43 percent plan to purchase books
  • 26 percent will buy fragrances
  • 21 percent plan to purchase housewares

However, only 12 percent of NPD’s survey respondents plan to purchase electronics this year and 6 percent expect to buy cameras.

The NPD survey also asked consumers about the factors influencing where they will shop over the holidays. “Value,” “convenient location” and “quality of products” were cited as the top three influences on their decisions. An overwhelming 82 percent of females list “value” as a top consideration, while 76 percent of men feel similarly.

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