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Family Buying Decisions During the Holidays

Q&A with Assistant Professor of Marketing Suraj Commuri

A family shops during the holidays

Many consumers have had time to prepare for their holiday shopping this year which may lead to a healthier season than what one would expect for the current economic climate, according to Assistant Professor Commuri.

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ALBANY, N.Y. (December 02, 2010) -- As the Holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, the current economic climate weighs heavily on the minds of retailers. UAlbany Assistant Professor of Marketing Suraj Commuri provides insight on what businesses can expect, household shopping decisions and online retailing.

The School of Business faculty member is an expert on household decision-making, brand equity, online retailing, and brand counterfeiting.

Q: With the economy still on shaky ground and job losses looming in New York, what are the expectations for households and businesses during the upcoming Holiday shopping season?
 
A: The outlook has been rather grim for a while now and many people have already been experiencing the implications for much of the year. What that means is that many consumers have had time to prepare or plan for their holiday shopping, by cutting back on expenditures or forgoing many expenses altogether during the rest of the year. Therefore, we may see a healthier dose of shopping than what one would expect for the current economic climate.

A second expectation is an interest in gifts that multiple members of the family can enjoy, rather than gifts that are meant to be enjoyed by only one person. We will see such products do better than expected.

UAlbany Assistant Professor Surraj Commuri

UAlbany Assistant Professor Surraj Commuri (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Q: The internet has come a long way in offering deals to would be in-store shoppers. How have online retailers been able to accomplish this, and what’s on the “online” horizon for this year?
 
A: Given that now almost all physical stores have an e-commerce website as well, the difference between pure online merchants and pure brick-and-mortar stores has diminished. Yet, the glamor of online deals during this season has remained, whether it is a store's website or from a pure Internet business.

The reasons why online deals appear more attractive can be any of the following: First, the overhead costs of selling online are much lower than for a store. Second, online retailers can draw from their entire stock of a product before selling out, giving the illusion that it is easier to find the product online. This is because, a local store in Albany will have to report an item as out of stock once it sells out, even though a branch in Saratoga Springs might still have the item in stock. An online merchant can count stock across all locations.

In terms of what is on the horizon, the 'hot' products for this year such as Microsoft Kinect and iPad are in such high demand that there is not going to be any discounting and everyone will find it equally difficult to have them in stock. For the other products, consumers have become rather savvy over the years in searching and comparing and physical stores have gotten rather aggressive; online stores do not have much of an automatic advantage anymore.

When consumers visit 'deal' websites, they find deal, discount, and coupon information for online stores as well as physical stores. So the battlefield has merged.

Q: What role does brand counterfeiting play during this time of year for U.S. shoppers?

A: From my research, I find that it is not very likely that a genuine item consumer would switch to counterfeits during gift giving and switch back after that. Generally, people who purchase counterfeits will remain the ones who will purchase them at this time of the year as well. In fact, even if someone buys counterfeits now and then, they will hesitate to give one as a gift. So this is not a special time for counterfeits, as it will be for genuine items.

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