01 November 2009

2009 Holiday Gift Guide: Luxury Market

from a press release

Best Gift Ideas for Christmas 2009 – Practical Items that Represent a Good Value

Stevens, PA October 29, 2009 -- Predictions for holiday gift sales this year are grim. Most analysts expect the retail trade to see sales declines of one-to-two percent this year, making for two straight years of sales declines.

Even the traditionally free-spending affluent consumers with incomes in excess of $100,000 are going to hold tight on spending this holiday season. Unity Marketing's latest survey of 1,067 affluent luxury consumers (avg. income $228,800) conducted October 2-7, 2009 found that nearly 90 percent expect to spend the same (50 percent) or less (38 percent) on holiday gifts this year as they did last year. Only 11 percent of affluent shoppers say they are going to spend more.

Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, said, "The survey results underscore the cautious and worried mood among not just the lower- and middle-income consumers, but the affluents as well. Even more worrisome is the fact that the affluents play a far bigger role in the economy than their numbers would suggest. The affluent segment (incomes of $100,000 or more) makes up only 20 percent of total U.S. households, but they account for about 40 percent of all consumer spending. What the affluents decide to buy this year and where they choose to shop can make or break the season for many retailers."

Best gifts this year are practical, not frivolous

Danziger says this year's shopper is not going to go in for frivolous luxury items. "The mood among consumers is cautious; they don't feel particularly festive this year. People have plenty of reason to worry, most especially about rising unemployment, the continued weak economy, and threats of swine flu pandemic. The best gifts this year are going to be items that are practical and make a contribution to the gift recipient's life in order to make it safer, more secure, more comfortable, more meaningful. And it goes without saying that people want to spend as little money as possible this year, so they will be looking to get the best possible gift for the least amount of money," Danziger explains.

Based upon Unity Marketing's surveys of self-purchases among affluent consumers in the past year, here are gift ideas that are sure to please adults on people's gift lists:

  • Items that enhance people's sleep quality – Affluent consumers have been investing more in purchases for their homes throughout 2009 with increased spending on bedding, linens, even mattresses and box springs particularly noted. Since everyone is sleep deprived today, a perfect and practical gift item for this holiday would be down pillows or orthopedic special feature pillows that give extra support to the neck; satin pillow cases that pamper your skin and hair; white noise machines to block the unwanted noises that keep you awake; and calming lavender linen spray and aromatherapy oils to bring on restful sleep.
  • Cook's tools, kitchen gadgets, small appliances, cutlery – Also showing growth in terms of affluent consumer spending in 2009 are luxury housewares items that enhance the cooking experience. A great gift idea on the cheap is to put together a basket of kitchen utility items – peelers, can openers, wine openers, spatulas, spoons, whisks, meat thermometer – things that every cook needs and uses. Small kitchen appliances have also attracted more affluent shoppers this year, think single-cup coffee brewers, rice cookers, juicers, high-intensity blenders, food processors, espresso makers, panini presses. Also purchases of cutlery have been on the upswing among affluents. While high-quality knives don't come cheap, they make a valued gift that will last a lifetime.
  • Personal electronics – Everybody needs and values the convenience of personal electronics. This has been a growth category for affluents in 2009, with cellular phones, iPods, Blackberry's and other personal data assistants and laptop computers all growing in share of wallet. But the big holiday gift item in the personal electronics space this year will be GPS devices. GPS's offer safety, convenience, affordability, and they are cool and contemporary.
  • Outdoor living accents -- Affluents have invested more in their outdoor living spaces this year, so outdoor living accents can make a mood-lifting Christmas gift as people look forward to the spring. But these items won't be found easily in the mass department stores or big box chains. Rather shoppers will need to turn to local garden centers to get the best selection of outdoor living gift ideas off-season, like decorative pots, baskets, window boxes, chimeneas, bird feeders, flags, banners, garden signs. Posting strong growth this year among affluents has been outdoor accent lighting, which could make a practical and in-demand gift idea.
  • Seasonal items to enhance this year's holiday celebrations – Finally, holiday-themed gifts are always appreciated and priced for every budget. From hand-blown ornaments to holiday-decorated dinnerware and centerpieces, holiday-scented candles to collectible Santa Claus figurines or nutcrackers, the value-oriented gift shopper can always find a good gift idea in the seasonal departments of the department store, in the local gift shop or home furnishings boutique, or specialty Christmas shop. (Read on for more about the market for seasonal decorations)

In conclusion Danziger says, "The two key words that can guide holiday gift shoppers this year are 'practical' and 'value.' People will most appreciate gifts that they can use and that enhance the quality of their life in some measurable, meaningful way. Gift givers will be looking for great value, not just cheap price. So practical gift ideas that have that something extra that adds value for the recipient will be in demand."

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