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Average Person Has Completed Far Less Holiday Shopping Than in Previous Years, According to NRF

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For Immediate Release
Contact: Kathy Grannis (202) 626-8189 or grannisk@nrf.com

Average Person Has Completed Far Less Holiday Shopping Than in Previous Years, According to NRF
--41 Million People Have Not Started Holiday Shopping-- 

Washington, December 16, 2008 – With five fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, the holidays are sneaking up on shoppers more than usual. According to NRF’s 2008 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, the average person had completed 47.1 percent of their holiday shopping by the second week of December, about ten percent less than the 52.6 percent average completed by this time last year.  

The survey also found that over 41 million people have not started holiday shopping, with the biggest procrastinators being men (20.7% haven’t started) and 35-44 year-olds (20.9%). Only eight percent of shoppers say they have completely finished their shopping.

“Procrastinators are in good company this year because a shorter window between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year means that the holidays have snuck up on many of us,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “Retailers will try to manage the rush of last-minute shoppers with expanded hours, extra employees to stock shelves, and a lot of sales and promotions.”

While shoppers will be visiting a variety of retailers over the next 10 days, some categories will be busier than others. According to the survey, discount stores (43.0%) and department stores (42.5%) will be the top spots for shopping, with about one-third (31.8%) planning to visit specialty stores. Additionally, a large majority of last-minute shoppers are planning to skip the crowds and visit the web, with 40.2 percent of people planning to shop online, up substantially from 34.9 percent a year ago.

In order to stick to a budget this holiday season, consumers continue to set aside plastic. According to the survey, two-thirds of shoppers (66.2%) have primarily used cash, debit cards, or checks to pay for holiday purchases, up from 64.5 percent last year.

“Most Americans have put themselves on a budget this holiday season and are sticking to it,” said Phil Rist, Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. “Retailers are finding that consumers who pay with cash or a debit card may be less likely to make impulse purchases, but recognize that these shoppers are also trying to put themselves in a better financial situation to spend in the future.”

Practical gifts continue to reign this holiday season, with clothing being the most popular gift purchased (44.8%). Additionally, shoppers have been buying books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games (40.8%); toys (33.1%); and electronics (24.5%). As expected, fewer people have purchased gift cards this year compared to a year ago.

Though gift cards are the most requested gift for the holidays, 24.3 percent of shoppers have purchased gift cards this holiday season, compared with 30.2 percent who had done so by this time last year.  

About the Survey

The NRF 2008 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey polled 8,860 consumers and was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch, December 2-9, 2008. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.

BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes. BIGresearch’s syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey monitors the pulse of more than 8,000 consumers each month to empower its clients with unique insights for identifying opportunities in a fragmented and changing marketplace.   

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2007 sales of $4.5 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com.  

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