Consumers Have Only Scratched Holiday Surface

Over the next few weeks, millions of Americans will visit stores and websites in droves – some for the first time all holiday season – to complete their holiday shopping lists.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2011 Consumer Intentions and Actions survey conducted by BIGresearch, as of the second week in December, the average person has completed 46.5 percent of their shopping, less than the 49.5 percent the average person had completed by the same time last year.

“For consumers, the holiday season is more of a marathon than a sprint – typically starting the season strong, pacing themselves in the middle and gearing up again in the final stretch, a trend retailers expect every year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As the hours tick toward Christmas, retailers still have a few tricks up their sleeves to entice even the most extreme procrastinators looking to cross the final names off their lists.”

According to the survey, nearly 37 million people (16.5 percent) had not even started their shopping as of late last week, while 7.6 percent say they have completely finished shopping already. The survey also found the average 25- to 34-year-old has finished about 50.2 percent of their shopping – the most of any age group.

Planning to take advantage of retailers’ extended – and often free – shipping offers, nearly half (45.5 percent) of those polled will do the remainder of their shopping online, the highest percent in the survey’s nine-year history and up from 37.6 percent last year. More people will also flock to their favorite department (44 percent vs. 38.4 percent last year) and electronics stores (23 vs. 19.4 percent). Discount stores (35.9 percent), grocery stores (12.5 percent), specialty stores (10.7 percent) and even outlets (12.5 percent) will also see their share of increased holiday traffic in the coming days.

Continuing to grow in popularity for both gift givers and recipients, 31.4 percent of shoppers say they have already bought gift cards/gift certificates this holiday season, up from 29.9 percent last year. As witnessed over Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend, discretionary gifts are on the rise this holiday season: apparel, electronics, toys, jewelry and personal care items rank as some of the top gifts so far this year.

“This holiday season, shoppers have their eye on more discretionary purchases – whether they’re looking for gifts or just a few small items for themselves,” said BIGresearch Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “With less than two weeks until Christmas Day, many shoppers realize that it is crunch time for making decisions but are still planning to stick to their budgets and seek out good deals until the final gifts are wrapped.”

For the remainder of the holiday season, savvy shoppers will turn to their trusty mobile and tablet devices to find the perfect gift. According to the survey, which included these questions for the first time, three in 10 tablet owners will use their device to purchase products and 30.5 percent will use it to look up retailer information such as store hours, location and directions. Most smartphone owners will utilize their mobile device to research products: nearly one-third will compare prices/research items with their smartphone.

When it comes to preferred payment methods, consumers are still keen on paying for gifts with money they already have. Four in 10 say they have primarily paid for their gifts with a debit or check card, while one-quarter (have used cash. Slightly less than one-third used a credit card.

The survey found most people will wrap up their lists a week before Christmas. Nearly one-third of shoppers say they will buy their last gift before Dec. 18, and another 10.9 percent will wait until the very last minute and finish their shopping on Christmas Eve.

The NRF 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey polled 8,402 consumers and was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch from Nov. 30 to Dec. 7.

BIGresearch consumer intelligence provides analysis of behavior in areas of products and services, retail, financial services, automotive and media.

NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad.

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