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Will These 5 Holiday Shopping Trends Save Retail Investors From a Blue Christmas?

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Minyanville has broken down how both consumers and businesses are negotiating the tricky terrain of holiday sales 2012.

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With recession woes in the autumn air, unemployment hovering above 9% and household incomes sliding down the chimney, this holiday season is expected to be a buyer's market. Minyanville has broken down how both consumers and businesses are negotiating this tricky terrain.

1. Sales Have Already Started
Black Friday? What Black Friday? Many retailers didn't even wait for the end of daylight savings time to begin jingling the holiday bells.

"Black Friday isn't until the day after Thanksgiving, but since you're here already, looking for Black Friday deals, we thought we'd get the deals going a little early," justifies Amazon (AMZN). The online superstore is promising new deals every day on electronics, video games, DVDs, toys and games, clothing and more. Using Twitter, Facebook and its iPhone app, Amazon is publishing sales along with daily deal emails to subscribers. The new Amazon Browser Bar allows users to receive sales notifications and comparison shop.

Similarly, Walmart (WMT) has rolled back, not only its prices but the calendar with its earliest "Super Saturday Sale" ever. The annual in-store event will happen this year on November 5 from 11 a.m. to midnight followed by month-long online deals leading up to Black Friday. Expect deals like a $50 Walmart Gift Card with the purchase of a $399 Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360 250 GB Kinect and $50 off the Barnes & Noble (BKS) Nook Color, on sale for $199.

California online electronics retailer Newegg has dropped all holiday pretense, simply referring to this entire month as "Black November" with items including flat-screen TVs, video games and computer components newly discounted every day.

In keeping a little more strictly with Black Friday tradition, department stores like Kohl's (KSS), Macy's (M), Old Navy (GPS) and Target (TGT) will wait until midnight on November 25 to open their holiday floodgates, er, doors.

2. Discounters Dominate, Including Daily Deal Makers
Taking a "careful" and "controlled" approach to holiday shopping this year, 93% percent of consumers are motivated by deals and 73% will make their first stop the discount retailer, according to Accenture's (ACN) annual consumer holiday shopping study. While these numbers are staggering, they do represent a sizable drop in shopping behavior from last year and 2009 when 81% and 85% of shoppers, respectively, checked off their Christmas lists at discount stores.

Market research company GfK Group has reported a rising trend in social network and deal-of-the-day coupon sites. Just in time for Groupon's IPO, 39% of holiday consumers are adding Groupon (GRPN) and LivingSocial bargains to the holiday shopping mix. Of the GfK-trademarked Influential Americans® (the 10% of the population with the most sway over public opinion), 58% will purchase from deals sites and 66% will use social networks.

3. More Online Shopping
Standing in line at the brick-and-mortar is so last decade. Accenture says this season, 59% of holiday shoppers (an 18% increase over last year) plan to buy more than half of their gifts from the comfort of their computers. Free shipping is the single greatest incentive to online shopping, at 74%, with deeper discounts cited by 60% of consumers and crowd avoidance coming in third at 47%.

The NRF survey indicates that online shoppers will spend more money, an average of $857.59, or a 21.7% increase over those hoofing it this season.

4. Shoppers Will Rely on Smartphones
The 2011 season marks the first that the National Retail Federation's (or NRF) Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey has polled respondents about their intentions to employ their gadgetry for shopping purposes. With mobile apps allowing us to shop on the move without actually visiting the store, a majority of smartphone and tablet-equipped shoppers are expected to use their devices this season.

While age and gender play a role, with young men driving the statistics, seven in 10 tablet owners and over half of smartphone users will engage in various shopping behaviors like researching products, comparing prices, redeeming coupons and making purchases with their mobile gear.

5. Shoppers Are Self-Gifting
Delaying gratification of their own wants and needs, shoppers have patiently waited out the non-sales season to strike while the holiday iron is hot. On the bottom of the Christmas lists of their friends and family, the NRF survey finds that nearly 60% of holiday shoppers are adding items for themselves and have allocated about $130 to do so.

This year's self-gifting is an increase over 2010 by an average of $18 per person (while spending overall is down by almost $15) and comprises over five percent of shoppers' total holiday gift budgets.

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No positions in stocks mentioned.

The information on this website solely reflects the analysis of or opinion about the performance of securities and financial markets by the writers whose articles appear on the site. The views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Minyanville Media, Inc. or members of its management. Nothing contained on the website is intended to constitute a recommendation or advice addressed to an individual investor or category of investors to purchase, sell or hold any security, or to take any action with respect to the prospective movement of the securities markets or to solicit the purchase or sale of any security. Any investment decisions must be made by the reader either individually or in consultation with his or her investment professional. Minyanville writers and staff may trade or hold positions in securities that are discussed in articles appearing on the website. Writers of articles are required to disclose whether they have a position in any stock or fund discussed in an article, but are not permitted to disclose the size or direction of the position. Nothing on this website is intended to solicit business of any kind for a writer's business or fund. Minyanville management and staff as well as contributing writers will not respond to emails or other communications requesting investment advice.

Copyright 2011 Minyanville Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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