Are Consumers Done With Their Holiday Shopping?

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The holiday shopping season may be ending a little too soon this year.

Nearly 40% of people say they have finished their Christmas shopping for the year compared to just 29% who felt that way by this time in 2010, according to a new survey from America’s Research Group. However, much of the reason for this is that shoppers are visiting fewer stores and buying fewer gifts.

“It’s a reflection that people are making less money this year,” C. Britt Beemer, ARG’s president, told MainStreet. “What we are seeing is that more consumers made their lists out, they had a few things they wanted to buy and now they’re done.”

The marketing firm surveyed 1,000 shoppers around the country on Dec. 10-11 and found that 40% have been forced to rely on whatever money they have from week to week to pay for their holiday shopping this year, compared to 31% in 2010. Not surprisingly then, the number of gifts people plan to buy for themselves and others has dropped as well.

On average, the survey found that shoppers intend to give two fewer gifts this year than in 2010. Likewise, the number of people who bought themselves something nice for Christmas declined slightly from almost 45% in 2010 to just a little more than 40% this year.

As a result, Beemer says we’re seeing consumers visit fewer stores this year since their shopping lists are shorter and their pockets are a little emptier. In total, just one third of shoppers have visited six to 10 stores this season, a drop of more than 10 percentage points from the year before.

These findings run counter to other analysts who argued that the success of Black Friday this year was proof that consumers were finally willing to open up their wallets for their end of year shopping, but according to Beemer, Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are never a reflection of the rest of the holiday season so much as a “reflection of how many consumers want bigger and better deals.” If retailers were to be as aggressive with promotions in the next week as they were during Black Friday weekend, it might inspire otherwise hesitant shoppers to set foot in stores again, but he doesn’t expect this to happen.

“Most retailers think they can save their big Christmas promotions for the week of, but most people will be gone by mid-week,” Beemer says. “Christmas falls on a Sunday this year which is the worst day of the week for it to fall on because it wipes out that last shopping weekend.”

Seth Fiegerman is a staff reporter for MainStreet. You can reach him by email at Seth.Fiegerman@thestreet.com, or follow him on Twitter @sfiegerman.

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