On San Antonio's Big Shopping Weekend, Where Will Consumers Spend?

Nov 22, 2017

As we head into the busiest weekend of the year for retailers, analysts expect a 3  to 4 percent bump in spending. But how people will spend this holiday season is up for debate.

For the first time in more than three decades of surveys, business consulting group Deloitte found most people’s holiday budgets would be spent online.

“They like the convenience of it,” Deloitte partner Ed Tauriac said. “They like the product variability online, so they can sort of have that experience of being in control.”

Credit Courtesy Deloitte

The survey showed 51 percent planned to spend 9 percent more online than at a brick and mortar location.

Purdue professor of consumer science Richard Feinberg isn’t buying this new data.

“Yeah that’s just not the case,” he said. “It’s not gonna happen that way.”

Feinberg said the survey was conducted too early in the year. But most importantly, Feinberg just doesn’t think consumers know how they will spend their money.

“In-store purchasing is still 85 percent of all the money that any retailer is going to get,” said Feinberg, whose research showed that it is closer to 15 percent than 50 for online holiday spending.

Feinberg, a staunch believer in physical stores, said the malls and shopping centers will outlive him because it’s social and people are still, deep down, hunter-gatherers.

But 2017 was one of the biggest for store closings, with estimates of more than 6,700 — a fact Feinberg said has more to do with over-leveraged stores and too much retail space than with a wholesale rejection of in-store purchasing. 

Seventy percent of people polled by Deloitte said they will hit the stores this Friday.

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“Not only are they buying online but they also expect some in-person or in-store presence,” Tauriac said.

Web-first retailers like Warby Parker embraced physical outlets early and even web-only retailers like Amazon have made the jump the past few years.

Consumers want more from their retailers, Tauriac said. They want instant availability of in store, but also infinite variability of online.

Feinberg agrees that retailers can’t ignore online and need a good website to get people into the store.

“Clearly the internet does drive shopping,” Feinberg said.

This holiday weekend, they both agree that whether people are in their jammies shopping online or doing a Black Friday battle at big box storefronts, big promotions and discounts are driving consumers.

*Correction: an earlier version of this story said that Deloitte doesn't oversample for adult women in these surveys. According to their media representatives they oversample for adult women in all major markets for this survey.

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive