I’ve spent the last three years of this column sharing with you important facts about African Americans’ consumer power. I know those of us who are certified black-belts in the time-honored martial art of shopping, are fired up for the Black Friday super sales with our artillery of cash and/or credit cards in hand.
But first, let’s breathe deeply and think about this, especially in light of recent allegations of retail establishments questioning purchases made by Blacks, which have brought the very essence of our purchasing power under assault. Now, more than ever, it’s important for us to understand what it means to be a Conscious Consumer—particularly during the busiest shopping season of the year.
These are a few important questions you should ask yourself before making any consumer decision:
1) Did I find this service or product in my neighborhood?
2) Does this company, network or business hire people who look like me?
3) Do I see positive images of myself reflected in the content this company or program promotes?
4) Does this company have a history of supporting causes that better my community?
5) Am I still willing to spend my limited time or hard earned dollars with this company if the answer to any of the above questions is no?
With that in mind, Nielsen’s Holiday Spending Forecast expects this shopping season to be financially stronger than last year, with dollar sales up about two percent. Even though an increase in sales is predicted, 68% of shoppers who responded to the survey still feel as though they’re in a recession. Twenty percent of U.S. consumers say they have no cash to spare. Forty-eight percent report living comfortably or spending freely. Fifty-two percent of consumers are only buying on the basics.
Thirty percent of us across all income ranges say we’ll spend between $250–$500 on gifts this year. Twenty percent of consumers estimate they will spend between $500–$1,000, with just six percent predicting that they’ll drop more than $1,000.
How, where and on what are we expected to spend our money? Dollar stores are expected to enjoy a banner season, with 12 percent of consumers in households earning $50,000 or less, reporting plans to shop in these channels, versus 4 percent of consumers in households earning $100,000 and up. Twenty percent of those consumers in the $100,000+ category say they will be shopping more online, compared to 15 percent of consumers in households earning less than $50,000.
The 10 hottest holiday items for 2013 include:
Nielsen has traditionally been on point with holiday spending projections, successfully predicting five out of five category trends last year. The information is gathered from consumer surveys of more than 22,000 households of all demographic groups across the country and an analysis of 92 product categories with over $99 billion in sales.
Lots of us enjoy making putting smiles on faces with a little ‘holiday cheer,’ so beer, liquor and wine sales are expected to contribute between $60 million and $70 million to the bottom line this season. Snacks and candy are expected to bring in $199 million and $95 million in sales, respectively. Sales of holiday treats such as cheese, jams and jellies are also expected to jump. We love our canine-American and feline-American family members. So pet care is expected to grow by 5.3% and pet food 1.4%.
Now that we’ve talked about this year’s holiday shopping trends, are you among the 22% of U.S. consumers who have already begun holiday shopping? Or, do you find yourself among the 60% who love the adrenalin rush of crowds and last minute deals—or just master procrastinators?
African Americans are frequent shoppers, savvy digital users, high volume owners of Smartphones and users of social media and voracious consumers of media—in other words, powerful consumers. We cannot expect different results if our consumption patterns and habits don’t change. It’s just that simple; no matter what time of year it is.
So happy holiday shopping, but remember the final decision to be a ‘conscious consumer’ is yours to make. As always, I encourage you to choose wisely. And don’t forget to chat with us on Twitter or Facebook so we can keep the conversation going.
(Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to