Sun's holiday retail survey brings fresh warning

WM Circle Logo

By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on December 20, 2004

More than 90% of US consumers will walk out of a store and shop elsewhere if they can't find the specific item that they want this holiday season, and online customers are even more unforgiving, according to a survey on consumer shopping patterns recently conducted by Harris Interactive for Sun Microsystems.

Some 91% of American consumers say they will walk out of a store and shop elsewhere if they cannot find the particular gift they want this holiday season. And adults who are gift shopping online are equally unforgiving of online retailers that do not have the product they want; only one in twenty-five (4%) said they would opt to buy a different gift from the same e-tailer web site.

Technical hitches on web sites are also likely to result in lost revenue for retailers; only 35% of consumers say that they would come back and try again later. The survey's findings confirmed that retailers that are unable to meet consumer demand and deliver what they want, when they want it, may lose valuable turnover - and possibly customers' loyalties - to their competitors.

Key findings

  • While almost all US adults (99%) who planned to shop for holiday gifts this year said they would buy some of their presents at a traditional bricks-and-mortar store, only 16% of those surveyed expected to do all of their seasonal shopping in such stores, revealing a distinct transformation in consumer shopping habits over the past decade.
  • More than half (53%) planned to do up to half of their holiday shopping online, alongside 31% planning to purchase at least a quarter of their gifts at online stores, and 37% also planning to do up to half of their holiday shopping through catalogues, television or by telephone. This figure rose to 61% among 18 - 34 year-olds.
  • Six out of ten adults (60%) who planned to shop for holiday gifts said they would visit another physical retailer if they could not find the gift they wanted in a store. Almost one-third of the others (31%) said they would go online instead.
  • Only 4% of adults who planned to shop online for holiday gifts would buy a different gift at the same online retailer if they could not find the gift that they originally wanted, while 51% said they would visit a different online retailer and 29% would visit a store instead.
  • Two-fifths of adults (42%) planning to shop online said they would visit another online retailer or a store if a web site they visited was experiencing technical problems. Only 35% said they would try the site again later, and only 5% said they would bother contacting customer service as an alternative.

Critical investments
Sun Microsystems believes that retailers who have made good technology investments in four key areas - lead time optimisation, supply chain management, mark down optimisation, and labour force management - are the most likely to have an advantage over their competitors.

"Harris Interactive's research confirms that we live in a culture in which instant gratification is synonymous with customer service and it is now the standard expectation of shoppers," said Mike Green, vice president for the retail industry at Sun Microsystems.

For additional information:
·  Visit Sun Microsystems at
·  Visit Harris Interactive at