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American holiday shoppers confront new decision: what size is your carbon footprint?

Boston

MOTHER Nature is figuring into consumers' holiday spending plans this year.

The environmental impact of fast-delivery options, which may include using planes and shipping multiple items separately, is a concern resonating with Americans, according to Accenture's Annual Holiday Shopping Survey. Half of respondents said they'd choose options that leave a smaller carbon footprint, such as slower shipping or in-store pickup.

"Consumers are starting to care" about the use of cardboard and the impact of next-day shipping, Jill Standish, senior managing director and head of Accenture's global retail practice, said in an interview.

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"This is just the beginning. This is the new normal." To be sure, while consumers say they want to rein in any repercussions on the planet from their shopping habits, it's unclear how much their behaviour will actually change. One-day or other fast-shipping options may prove too strong a lure, especially when trying to meet holiday deadlines.

Amazon.com Inc, Walmart Inc and Target Corp have been investing billions of dollars to speed up and broaden delivery options as they vie for customers, a strategy that has put pressure on their profit margins. Walmart has said its shift to one-day shipping will mean items will typically come in just one box from a single warehouse that's closest to the customer. Amazon said in April that reducing delivery times for its top customers would cost it US$800 million in the second quarter alone.

In addition to the environment, social responsibility is becoming more important to consumers, according to Accenture. Of the 1,500 people surveyed in July and August, 45 per cent said they plan to shop at retailers this holiday season who demonstrate social consciousness in their business practices and working conditions.

Six out of seven participants said they plan to spend the same or more than last year, averaging US$637. On average, men expect to lay out US$685, about 15 per cent more than women, with gift cards, clothing and footwear the most popular purchases. Respondents were split evenly between men and women, with 20 per cent representing each of five generational groups from Gen Z to Baby Boomers. BLOOMBERG