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‘Santa’s List’ survey predicts increased holiday shopping

This year marked a return to traditional Puerto Rican year-end holiday celebrations – “the world’s best and longest holiday season – starting in mid-October, according to the 12th edition of Santa’s List, an annual survey by advertising agency Arteaga & Arteaga’s A&ANSWERS unit.

“The commercial sector has prepared for what they anticipate will be a good holiday shopping season; consumers will follow suit,” reads a news release about the survey, which found that 15% more Puerto Rican consumers plan to shop for Christmas than in 2020, while 55% are planning online purchases and 30% will combine that with in-store shopping. 

“The results of our annual Santa’s List 2023 consumer study deliver good news for the island’s commercial sector, which has been hard hit for more than a decade. The vast majority, 94%, of Puerto Rican consumers will do Christmas shopping this year and a significant 65% of those surveyed said they are prepared to maintain or increase their shopping budget compared to the previous year,” said Juan Alberto Arteaga-Torres, president of Arteaga & Arteaga.

“Everything indicates that this will be the Christmas in which we become ourselves again, meaning, Puerto Ricans will celebrate among friends and family, they will enjoy the traditions of the best Christmas in the world, decorate their homes, enjoy local attractions by doing internal tourism, and 72% will buy gifts for both Christmas and the Three Kings Day holidays,” Arteaga-Torres said.

Holiday music and decorations have been evident since October, and 87% of respondents said they are focusing on family celebrations. Forty percent plan “from me, to me” gifts, “a marked contrast to the sacrifice of many consumers in recent years when taking time or investing money in “oneself” was not the priority,” the agency said.

Home decoration is planned by 34% of respondents, and 23% will host parties.

“Staying local, a trend that began during the pandemic will continue this holiday season with 18% and 14% of Puerto Ricans choosing to go restaurant shopping ‘chinchorreo’ or enjoying internal tourism attractions, respectively,” the release reads.  

“Parrandas,” the “Puerto Rican version of Christmas caroling, a tradition that had subsided in recent years,” are planned by 11%, while 12% of Puerto Ricans will travel during the holidays. 

With the pandemic’s impact receding, ongoing post-Hurricane Maria reconstruction and emerging from bankruptcy, Puerto Rico’s retail industry, which generates $36 billion annually (excluding motor vehicle sales), is optimistic about year-end sales, representing more than 35% of total sales, according to the release. 

Until Three Kings Day
The survey highlights that consumer shopping will span from early November until Three Kings Day, providing various opportunities for businesses. There are at least six occasions during that period for businesses sales, including “Miércoles Naranja” (Orange Wednesday), an initiative to boost local small business sales; the period from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, when employees typically receive their year-end or Christmas bonus; Black Friday during Thanksgiving weekend; Cyber Monday, the Monday after Black Friday, aimed at boosting online sales; and the weeks preceding Christmas and Three Kings Day.

“As awareness about the importance of supporting local businesses grows, the ‘miércoles naranja’ (Orange Wednesday) initiative now extends to the entire month of November,” explained Lourdes Aponte, president of the United Retailers Center. “We all win by shopping local; specifically, by supporting the small and medium-sized business sector, which generates the majority of direct jobs in our economy. Increasingly, local businesses have adopted technology to facilitate their sales, offer convenience and competitive prices to consumers, while the in-store experience is always more individualized.”

Seven out of 10 consumers plan to maintain or increase their holiday shopping budget compared to last year. To stay within budget, about 72% will cut back on impulse purchases, and approximately 70% will reduce dining out spending.

The survey shows a focus on prices and quality in holiday shopping, with 82% of respondents indicating specials and low prices as main factors in gift-buying, and 74% prioritizing quality.

Merchants who are creative with their merchandising mix should benefit, given that 63% and 33% of consumers are looking for variety and attractive gifts, respectively. Store proximity and a quick shopping process will influence 30% and 25% of consumers’ gift-buying decisions, respectively.

Gifts for children and personal gifts are high on the list this season, according to the survey. Children dominate 73% of consumers’ gift lists, while self-gifts and gifts for a spouse or life partner rank came in at second, 57%, and third place, 56%, respectively. Grandchildren are “present on everyone’s gift lists,” the release says, adding that 23% of consumers include their pets on the list and 45% of respondents without children made their pets their primary gift recipients.

“Returning to pre-storm Fiona (2022) shopping interest levels,” clothing and accessories top the gift list for 81% of surveyed consumers, followed by toys (45%), footwear (38%), home goods (35%), fragrances (33%) and gift cards (32%). 

Electronics and technology, previously top categories, are favored by 30%, while video games are chosen by 12%. Personal care gifts and jewelry are planned by 24% and 16% of respondents, respectively.

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