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Polls Show Consumers' Expected Shopping Habits This Christmas

New York — Despite the early sales push by major retailers, a Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll shows that consumers plan to start shopping later for the holidays this year. Only 22 percent expect to get their holiday shopping done right after Thanksgiving this year, compared to 30 percent in 2006.

Another 45 percent said they expect to finish shopping for the holidays by the second week of December, while 20 percent don't expect to complete their purchases until Christmas Eve.
A full 6 percent don't expect to finish their shopping until after the season is over.

Clothing tops the list of gifts that consumers plan to buy, at 71 percent, followed by gift cards at 62 percent and electronics at 53 percent. But while clothing is the most-purchased gift, it isn’t the most wanted. The poll found that consumers would most like to receive electronics gifts, at 19 percent, followed by gift cards at 12 percent.

Men wanted electronics the most, at 25 percent, while women want gift cards (15 percent) and electronics (13 percent). Last year Consumer Reports found that clothing was the gift which most often disappointed, at 38 percent.

Some 23 percent of respondents anticipate they will spend less than last year, and 65 percent plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping online.

Men (23 percent) are more likely than women (13 percent) to do more of their holiday shopping online. The 22nd Annual Holiday Survey of retail spending and trends, by Deloitte, got slightly different results, finding that gift spending will hold steady and the number of gifts consumers plan to give is up.

Consumers plan to buy an average of 23 gifts, up from 22 last year and the highest over the last six years. Women plan to buy even more, with an average of 26 gifts. Consumers aged 61–74 plan to spend 27 percent more than the average.

However, the survey also showed that 41 percent expect to reduce their spending this holiday season, just not on gifts.

Areas where spending is likely to be down include home improvements, socializing/entertaining, charitable donations, home/holiday furnishings and non-gift clothing.

Department stores, both traditional and discount, continue to be the top shopping destination. Gift cards are expected to be the top gift purchase for the fourth straight year, with 69 percent of consumers surveyed planning to buy them, compared with 66 percent last year. Shoppers are planning to buy an average of 5.5 cards, compared with 4.6 cards last year. Consumers are also spending more per card: $36.25 on average, compared with $30.22 last year.

Some 39 percent of consumers would rather get a gift card than merchandise, an increase over last year's 35 percent. And only 19 percent say they don't like to give gift cards because they're too impersonal, down from 22 percent last year. While 46 percent intend to buy them for immediate family; however, only 14 percent plan to buy gift cards for spouses or significant others.

More than half of consumers surveyed (54 percent) say a product's country of origin is important to them when making a purchase decision, with those over age 44 being most concerned; 35 percent said non-food products importer from other countries are not safe. Even more (58 percent) say recent news stories about product recalls will influence some of their purchase decisions.

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