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Shoppers Starting Holiday Buying Later


Washington, D.C. According to a National Retail Federation (NRF) study released Tuesday, the average person has completed far-less holiday shopping than in recent years.

The NRF’s 2008 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, conducted by BIGresearch,  found that 41 million people have not yet started their holiday shopping.

The study also found that the average person had completed 47.1% of their holiday shopping by the second week of December, about 10% less than the 52.6% average completed by this time last year.

Of the 41 million who haven’t started shopping, the study said that the biggest procrastinators were men (20.7% haven’t started) and 35 to 44 year-olds (20.9%). Only 8% 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% of people planning to shop online for the remainder of their holiday shopping, up substantially from 34.9% a year ago.

In order to stick to a budget this holiday season, consumers continue to shun credit cards. 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% last year.

Practical gifts 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% of shoppers have purchased gift cards this holiday season, compared with 30.2% who had done so by this time last year.

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