Christmas passed without the usual retail fad

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on January 7, 2003

For the first time in many years, the Christmas gift shopping season has passed without any major retail 'fad'. No single blockbuster gift item emerged to capture consumers' imagination (and disposable income), according to a survey by Accenture.

According to the survey of over 2,000 consumers in the US and UK, more than 60% said they were not able to name any specific fad gift item.

Memorable past fads in the US, in order of sales popularity, have included the Tickle Me Elmo of 1996, the Cabbage Patch Kids of 1986, the Sony Playstation of 1995, and the Furby of 1998.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the top Christmas sellers have been the Furby, followed by the Playstation, Buzz Lightyear in 1995, and the Teletubbies in 1997.

Bad timing
Most stores generate a significant percentage of their annual sales during the fourth quarter of the year, and much of that comes during the crucial pre-Christmas period. The situation was made worse in the US last year because Thanksgiving was so late in November, significantly reducing the traditional peak shopping period.

Manufacturers were given a troubling warning by the survey's respondents, who agreed that, in terms of gift shopping, "there was nothing exciting" (45%), or that "there was nothing innovative" (36%), or that "there was nothing new" (31%).

The survey also found that the majority of respondents intended to spend the same amount as they did on holiday purchases the previous year. Some 55% intended to spend the same, while 30% wanted to spend less, and 14% wanted to spend more. Regardless of spending levels, the majority of respondents aimed to give the same number of gifts as before.

"In a tough economic environment, and with the threat of war looming, media attention has been weighted toward hard news, and manufacturers have reduced their promotional budgets," said Accenture partner, Tom Davenport. "With the resulting lack of marketing and media hype supporting product sales, companies must do a better job of understanding their customers' core needs and providing products and services they value."

Consumer attitudes
Other recent research from Accenture confirms the results of the holiday survey. According to its Consumer Attitudes Toward Innovation survey of 3,500 consumers in the US and key European markets, the products and services that grabbed consumer interest offered features that were meaningful to them, such as improving their physical health and well-being, or providing intellectual stimulation.

The events of September 11, 2001 were not overly significant in the choice of types of gifts purchased. Some 70% said the events had no impact in deciding whether or not to buy patriotic gifts, while 6% were more likely to buy patriotic gifts, and 4% were less likely to buy patriotic gifts. Moreover, over half of the respondents (55%) said September 11, and the possibility of imminent war, were very unlikely to affect their holiday spending.

When it came to internet shopping, the majority of consumers at least browsed for gifts online, even if they did not actually buy the gifts online. Some 25% just browsed online, while 70% browsed and purchased online.

The top reasons cited for shopping online included comparing products or prices (75%), convenience (70%), browsing for ideas (63%), finding products not found in high street stores (55%), saving money (53%), and saving time (53%).

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