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Spoonfeedin WOrld

Business – Weak Holiday-Shopping Season Looms

Mark Dolliver

NEW YORK If consumers had a nickel for every forecast of how frugal they’ll be in their holiday shopping this year, they could afford to be more lavish about it. Some new surveys add to the growing body of gloomy holiday-shopping predictions.

In Gallup polling that asked people to say how much they expect to spend on Christmas gifts this year, respondents gave answers that averaged out to $740 — down from the $801 average in a survey conducted last October. The shred of good news in the poll (released this week and conducted in early October) is that the current figure is higher than the $639 average gleaned last year from a follow-up survey in early December, after consumers had had time to digest the dismal financial news of autumn 2008.

But that’s good news of a very limited sort. Looking back through this decade’s Gallup polling on holiday-shopping intentions, the $740 figure is lower than in any year other than 2008. As recently as the 2007 holiday-shopping season, Gallup respondents said they expected to spend an average of $833 on gifts.

Another part of this month’s Gallup survey asked respondents whether they expect to spend more, less or about as much this year as last. Just 9 percent said they’ll be spending more, vs. 33 percent saying they’ll spend less.

Those numbers are consistent with the findings of a survey released today by The NPD Group, based on fieldwork last month. Eleven percent of the NPD respondents said they plan to spend more for the holidays this year, vs. 30 percent planning to spend less. Based on its research, NPD anticipates year-to-year growth of 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent in consumers’ holiday spending.

A Burst Media survey, conducted in September and released last week, added its own share of holiday-shopping gloom. Like the Gallup and NPD surveys, it found people more likely to anticipate decreasing their holiday spending this year than increasing it (33 percent vs. 15 percent). It also added some demographic breakdowns. Notably, women were more likely than men (38 percent vs. 27 percent) to say they’ll reduce their spending this year on gifts and entertainment. And in a breakdown by household income, the intention to spend less was more prevalent among those in the $35,000-75,000 bracket (with 46 percent stating that expectation) than among those in the under-$35,000 cohort (30 percent) or the $75,000-plusers (31 percent).

Consumers don’t expect to give themselves (or retailers) a break from the bargain hunting that has characterized their shopping during the past year, holidays or no holidays. When asked in the NPD survey to say what would influence their purchase choices, “value” was a leading factor, cited by 62 percent of respondents. “Special sale” was right behind, mentioned by 61 percent of those polled.

The Burst Media survey indicates consumers will be using the Internet as a way to make sure they’re getting the most out of their holiday spending. Respondents said they’ll be going online to “window shop,” and the most popular activities under his heading will be “comparing different retailers to find the best price” (cited by 57 percent) and “comparing the features of different brands” (55 percent).

October 14, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

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