The Top 5 Things People Hate Most About Holiday Shopping

By Maris Cohen, Content Marketing Manager, The NPD Group

Holiday shopping is full of highs and lows.

One moment, you feel a surge of victory as you come across the perfect gift for your dad, seemingly undiscovered and marked down 20 percent, just as the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy sounds throughout a snowflake-adorned hall.  

The next, you’re dragging around a wet umbrella and heavy coat, your left arm is starting to fatigue under the weight of several shopping bags. You’ve now gone four hours without food, and just as you decide that Justin Bieber’s Christmas Song is testing your sanity, a nearby child starts to cry.

When you’re a manufacturer or a retailer, you’re hoping for more of the former moments for your customers, and fewer of the latter. So we set out to investigate what drives shoppers crazy, and how to avoid these pitfalls. In an online poll conducted from October 1, 2015 through October 27, 2015, our partner, CivicScience, asked 2,323 U.S. adults age 18 and older what they dislike most when it comes to holiday shopping in stores. Here were their top grievances:

5. Poor product selection

Poor product selection on the floor is a major problem for 3 percent of shoppers—but an even bigger problem for young Millennials (7 percent think it’s a deal breaker). The holidays are not the time to scrimp on product assortment. Be sure to offer top-selling brands and the model/color combinations appropriate for your market.

4. Lame customer service

You know those times when you’re struggling to make eye contact with a store employee in your attempt to find that one item you need in order to be on your way. Five percent of people find that lack of customer service or staff availability very unappealing. This is a pet peeve for shoppers over 45 years old, who are 40 percent more likely to list this as their top holiday shopping irritation compared to the total adult population. Grandparents are most likely to lose it when there’s poor customer service—nearly 9 percent list it as a deterrent. It's yet another reason to increase staffing during high-traffic periods and be extra nice to your elder patrons.

3. Other People

Talk about poor holiday spirit! Eleven percent of shoppers are turned off by other people, specifically by their attitudes. So it’s fellow shoppers’ demeanor that really kills their holiday buzz. Older Millennials ages 25 to 34 are the most agitated by this shopping factor. You should probably keep your shoppers as happy as possible to avoid the proliferation of negative temperament.

2. Lines

Lines for bathrooms, lines for changing rooms, lines to checkout—they’re all annoying. Lines were the second-most disliked aspect of holiday shopping, with 12 percent of consumers finding them the most offensive. Long queues are more likely to agitate younger Gen Y women ages 18 to 24. These are also the consumers who are 42 percent more likely to have an aversion to lines compared to the total U.S. adult population. You’d better have efficient checkout systems and increased staffing to keep those lines moving.

And you know what else is annoying when you’re waiting in a queue? Carrying stuff. Women are 1.5 times more likely than men to name “carrying bags and coats” as a big disincentive to shopping in stores. Of those who hate carrying bags, 87 percent will do holiday shopping online (compared to 67 percent of the general population). Perhaps brick-and-mortars can find a solution to this with a bag check system or showcasing model that includes free two-day shipping.

1. Crowds

Hordes of people are the most unpopular element of the holiday in-store shopping experience, with more than one-third of survey respondents naming crowds at their biggest displeasure. And Gen X takes the greatest issue with masses: 41 percent of the 35- to 44-year-old segment name crowds as their number-one grumble. Consumers who hate crowds most are more likely than other respondents to do up to 50 percent of their shopping online. In order to keep shoppers in the store, deliver a layout and flow that accommodate high store traffic. Or consider a mobile app that monitors and provides updates on store traffic so your valuable Gen X shoppers can plan out store trips accordingly.

These five factors matter so much to consumers that 22 percent told us they avoid them altogether by not doing holiday shopping in stores at all. So if you want to win the retail holiday, you’d best address these aggravations!


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