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Procrastination Abounds as NRF Survey Finds Most Have Completed Less than Half of Shopping

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For Immediate Release
Kathy Grannis (202)783-7971 or grannisk@nrf.com

Procrastination Abounds as NRF Survey Finds Most Have Completed Less than Half of Shopping
-Last-Minute Shoppers to Visit Discounters, Department Stores-

Washington, December 16, 2009 – Though the Christmas countdown is in its final stages, it seems shoppers still have plenty of shopping left to do. According to NRF’s 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, the average person had completed 46.7 percent of their holiday shopping by the second week of December, less than the 47.1 percent completed by this time last year. This is the lowest percentage since 2004, when the average person had completed 46.3 percent of their shopping by the same period.

“Retailers know the final lap counts the most and are planning to emphasize promotions and discounts to bring in last-minute shoppers,” said Tracy Mullin, President and CEO, NRF. “As Christmas Day creeps closer, retailers will be ready for an influx of procrastinators, from those who are checking the final names off their list to millions who haven’t even started shopping.”

According to the survey, nearly 42 million people (19.1%) had not even started their shopping as of late last week, while 8.6 percent of shoppers have completely finished. Adults over 65 years old have completed the most shopping (50.0%) while adults 45-54 year olds have completed the least (44.1%).  

Though stores are expected to be busy, there is hope for procrastinators trying to avoid the crowds this Christmas Eve. According to the survey, only 11.9 percent of shoppers say they will buy their last gift on December 24. Instead, the majority (35.0%) plan to finish their list by Saturday, December 19.

With many people shopping for bargains, discount stores (42.0%) and department stores (42.0%) can expect to see the most traffic in the coming days. Grocery stores can also expect to see an increase in last-minute shopping this year (11.5% vs. 8.4% in 2008) as more people consider food or candy as a gift item or head to supermarkets to purchase ingredients for homemade meals. Electronic stores (22.0%), clothing or accessories stores (20.6%), outlet stores (13.6%) and drug stores (7.8%) will also see their share of holiday shoppers before the big day, though a big chunk of procrastinators will also shop online (38.0%).

With an array of gift options, the majority of people (44.7%) say they have purchased apparel so far this year. Additionally, shoppers have been buying books, CDs, DVDs, videos and video games (39.7%), toys (34.6%) gift cards (27.5%), consumer electronics (21.8%) and food (19.3%).

When asked which payment method they have used the most, nearly four out of ten (39.3%) have used their debit or check cards most often. As expected, fewer people have used credit cards as their preferred payment method this year (30.9% vs. 33.8% in 2008), more than one-quarter (26.0%) have used cash, and a mere 3.8 percent have relied on checks.

“As expected, shoppers have shown tremendous restraint in buying gifts with the money they already have, not the money they hope to have,” said Phil Rist, Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. “Relying less on credit for holiday purchases will help consumers feel more comfortable about their personal finances again and may make them more willing to spend in the future.”

NRF continues to forecast that holiday sales will decline 1.0 percent from last year. November retail industry sales, which were released last week, declined 0.8 percent year-over-year.

About the Survey
The NRF 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey polled 9,929 consumers and was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch, December 1-9, 2009. 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 2008 sales of $4.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com.