Fewer people will camp out all night outside the nation's stores before Black Friday in hopes of snatching up the season's hot gifts as soon as the doors are flung open.
And just as the Super Bowl of the holiday shopping season is losing some of its luster, more U.S. consumers will use their smart phones and tablet computers to hunt down the best holiday deals, according to Accenture's holiday shopping survey.
The management consulting firm polled 500 consumers on their holiday shopping plans this year. Here's what they found:
Black Friday Waning
The turnout for Black Friday this holiday season could be the lowest in three years. That's because more shoppers will delay purchases until after Black Friday (52% versus 42% in 2010), holding out for steeper price markdowns.
The expectation of even better sales down the road is the reason given by 57% of consumers who plan to shop late in the season, while 35% of procrastinators said they'll postpone holiday shopping to allow themselves more time to save for their purchases.
Although Black Friday weekend's appeal appears to be waning, many shoppers still consider the traditional kickoff to the holiday selling season the best time to scoop up bargains, along with Cyber Monday -- the Monday after Thanksgiving -- which has become the biggest online shopping day of the year, the survey showed.
And consumers will still be on the hunt for big sales: 40% of shoppers polled said an item being on sale is the most important factor in their purchase decision.
Shoppers' Bargain Tool: Smart phones, Tablets
Retailers had better be on their game this holiday when it comes to being competitively priced: 54% of consumers planning to use a smart phone or tablet computer to buy gifts will use the device to compare prices when in a store; 43% believe these devices will help them nab bigger discounts.
One-quarter of shoppers are planning for a "thrifty" holiday season, while 18% said they would be focused on "necessities," the survey said.
Indeed, 43% of shoppers polled said they'll cut back on gift spending this year due to a range of factors reflecting the weak economy. These include less discretionary income and savings, higher living expenses, including food and energy bills, fear of a job loss as well as a recent job loss.
On Santa's List
Still, they will be spending.
Clothing tops shoppers' gift wish lists, with 54% planning on buying apparel. Also high priorities: toys (36%) and electronic gadgets such as smart phones and tablet computers (36%).
While shoppers will still flock to discounters this holiday season, the biggest shopping destination for holiday gifts, they are losing their appeal as department stores make a comeback, according to poll respondents. "The high-performing department stores have retained a keen focus on promotions that are carefully targeted to hit their customers' value button," said Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture's retail practice, in a statement.