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Clothing set to top US shopping lists this holiday season

Clothing and footwear are expected to top the list of planned purchases for US shoppers this holiday season, with physical stores expected to benefit and sustainability top of mind.

Americans are expected to spend an average of US$637 each on holiday shopping this year, new figures suggest, with around six in seven planning to spend either the same (57%) or more (28%) than they did last year.

The forecast from the 13th Annual Holiday Shopping Survey by Accenture shows on average, men expect to spend around 15% more than women: $685 versus $588. Gift cards and clothing/footwear top the list of planned purchases.

The online survey of 1,500 US consumers found fashion retailers with a rental service could be set to gain this holiday season. For instance, nearly a quarter (24%) of all respondents – and one third (34%) of older millennials – say they would be likely or extremely likely to rent clothes for holiday parties.

Also, with people being critical of fashion waste, vintage seems to be "in vogue," as nearly half (48%) of respondents said they would consider giving second-hand clothing as gifts, and even more – 56% – said they would welcome gifts of this kind for themselves.

Furthermore, the survey found physical stores are still in favour, with results going against the hype surrounding their demise. Respondents said they expect to do half of their holiday shopping this year in a store or mall, on average. In addition, consumers were significantly more likely to say that, after seeing an item in a store, they would purchase the item in the store rather than searching online for a better price and purchasing online.

"While having a strong online proposition has become table-stakes, physical stores will still play an important role in the future," says Jill Standish, senior managing director and head of Accenture's global Retail practice.

"With consumers planning to do half of their holiday shopping in-store, retailers need to carefully plan their strategy for customer service, including labour, assortment and allocation of inventory. With creativity and ingenuity around the store footprint, retailers have an opportunity to leverage the surge in holiday foot traffic not only to increase holiday revenues but also to find those special customers who will be the loyal ones they depend on all year."

The survey also identified how consumers want clear labelling that products are made in sustainable or ethical ways, to be shown the origin of materials and ingredients, and offered the option of packaging-free products and deliveries.

Further, half of respondents said that due to the negative environmental impact of fast-shipping options – which includes the use of planes rather than ground transportation, as well as the shipping of multiple items separately rather than together to expedite delivery – they would opt for delivery options with a lower environment impact, such as slower shipping or in-store pick-up.

And it's not just environmental issues that 'responsible' shoppers believe retailers should consider. Retailers have a responsibility to address wider social issues through their business practices and working conditions, and nearly half of the respondents (45%) said they are more likely to do their holiday shopping with retailers that do just that.

"We have entered the era of 'responsible retail,' where consumers are becoming more environmentally and socially conscious and will increasingly turn to brands that not only talk about responsibility but demonstrate it through their business practices," Standish says. "Retailers need to design their products and their business around responsible initiatives; those already on this path could have the edge over their competitors this holiday season and beyond."

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