Consumers Lollygag Into The Home Stretch

by , Dec 21, 2010, 8:07 AM
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Christmas-Shopping

While people often take their time finishing up their Christmas shopping, it looks like there are better excuses this year. In addition to continued worries about their own finances (after all, it's no accident that Merriam-Webster just made "austerity" the No. 1 word of the year, and that "pragmatic" came in second), many are convinced that the longer they wait, the lower the prices will go.

PriceGrabber, owned by Experian, surveyed consumers, and as late as Dec. 7 found that 43% were planning to shop right up until the whistle this year, with 41% of those saying it is because they are sure they can get better prices in the Dec. 21-24 framework.

In a poll by Eversave, a couponing site, 91% of shoppers say they are finding this year's last-minute sales to be better than -- or at least as good as -- last year's.

Nielsen Co. reports that 46% of Americans are shopping this week, with 20% of those doing so in order to take advantage of last-minute deals. About 40% use the evergreen excuse that they are just too busy. And about 18% say they do it because they enjoy shopping that last week of Christmas.

While the winners this year seem to be department stores, with 74% of the Nielsen sample shopping there, nearly half will also be at supercenters/mass merchandiser stores. (Walmart polled its Walmart Moms group and found that 77% still have gifts to buy.)

The good news is that cash registers are really ringing: The International Council of Shopping Centers says that in the last week, ending in "Super Saturday" (the nickname retailers give the last Saturday before the holiday), sales rose 1.7%, and on a year-over-year basis, jumped 4.2%. That's good news, since retailers had worried that consumers' earlier-than-usual shopping would slow last-minute spending.

Last week, the National Retail Federation upped its holiday forecast to an overall gain of 3.3%.

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