Xmas Shoppers Spend Less at Fewer Retailers

December 16, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | CPG & FMCG | Financial Services | Retail & E-Commerce

The number of consumers saying they will spend less for Christmas gifts is at an all time high this year, at 40.1%, nearly double last year’s (23.0%) – and approaching triple the proportion of those saying so in the previous three years, according to the America’s Research Group/UBS Christmas 2008 Survey, reports Retailer Daily.

Of those spending less, job fears motivate 63.6% this year, vs. 0% last year. The big concerns last year were high gas prices, at 35.7%, and high heating oil bills, at 26.2%.

“With recessionary cutbacks top of mind, American consumers are flocking to Wal-Mart for discounts and their wide range of merchandise,” said C. Britt Beemer, CEO and Founder of America’s Research Group (ARG).

Beemer lowered his Christmas retail sales forecast to -3.5% last week. He has correctly predicted Christmas retail sales in 16 of the last 17 years, ARG said.

So far this Christmas season, Wal-Mart shopping is at an all-time high, with 69.1% of consumers saying they have been to the store.

Of those consumers who shopped this past weekend (Dec. 6-7), most chose Wal-Mart by a large margin:

  • Sears, 23.3% (19.0% in 2007)
  • Target, 19.8% (18.8% in 2007)
  • JCPenney, 13.0% (18.1% in 2007)
  • Best Buy, 12.6% (16.5% in 2007)

Although the number of shoppers out this past weekend (49.8%) equaled the number last year (49.4%), they went to fewer stores. Over 40% went to only two stores this year (41.6%) compared with 32.8% last year. Over half (54.5%) shopped at five stores or less this year, compared with 47.7% last year. More consumers are also returning to the same stores this year (44.8%, compared with only 33.6% in 2007 and 33.8% in 2006).

Store traffic could get lighter over the next two weekends as 20.0% of consumers say they have finished all their Christmas shopping. Of those consumers who say they will wait until December 24 to finish shopping, 95.7% are looking for better/bigger bargains–an all time high.

Internet shopping rose only slightly the Monday after Black Friday with 24.2% purchasing online compared with 22.5% last year. Only 15.0% of workers said their employers allowed them to go online at work, compared with 17.6% last year. “This is hardly the basis to call this ‘Cyber Monday’,” Beemer said.

In addition, few consumers bothered to go online to find a lower price after shopping stores — 16.7% this year, compared with 19.7% last year.

More shoppers are not buying a gift card this Christmas (44.3%), a high percentage compared with previous years (26.0% in 2007, 27.1% in 2006, 41.8% in 2005, and 37.0% in 2004).

Toy shopping is also down this year, with 48.4% of consumers buying them compared with 54.7% last year.

The number of shoppers buying something nice for themselves is at an all-time low at 30.7%, compared with 55% ten years ago, and 33.8% last year.

Top purchases at Wal-Mart so far this season are as follows:

  • Toys, 39.0% (37.1% in 2007)
  • Videogames, 29.8% (20.1% in 2007)
  • Electronics, 28.8% (31.9% in 2007)
  • Children’s clothes, 21.6% (11.3% in 2007)

About the data: The America’s Research Group/UBS 2008 Christmas Survey consisted of 1,000 telephone interviews conducted Saturday and Sunday, December 6 and 7, 2008, at ARG headquarters in Charleston, SC. UBS has teamed with ARG for six surveys to take place this Christmas season. The fifth survey is scheduled for next weekend.

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