Poll: Economy To Stifle The Season's Do-Gooderism

Don't let all the clawing and scratching in Best Buy and Wal-Mart parking lots fool you: A new survey says that Americans are keen to give gifts with a soul this year.

Cone, a cause-related branding company based in Boston, reports that 77% of shoppers say they would prefer to select a brand that supports a cause, all things being equal. And 49% say they will go out of their way to find such gifts, reports the 2007 Cone Holiday Trend Tracker, its annual survey of cause-related holiday purchasing attitudes and behavior. About 67% say they believe cause-related shopping makes a difference, and 57% are willing to pay more for a holiday gift tied to a cause. So far, 42% have already purchased or plan to purchase a holiday gift that supports a cause this year, down from 51% last year.

But economic strains are cutting into people's charitable spirit. Only 49% of those surveyed say they plan to donate personal items, such as clothing, this year--down from 77% last year; only 28% say they will buy from a retailer that supports a cause--down from 59% last year--and only 29% will write out a check to charity this year--compared to 56% last year. Nor will they make up for money by giving time: Only 25% of those in the survey say they will volunteer this holiday--down from 49% last year.

When asked why, 72% say their cost of living has gone up due rising gas, oil and housing prices.

"Holiday shoppers are seeking opportunities to make a meaningful impact through their purchases, and they want to know what companies are doing to support causes so they can be part of making a difference," the company says in its report. "If businesses are to succeed in getting consumers to open their hearts and their wallets, they must tell consumers how to get involved and the specific impact they can make."

Cone says that retailers that are capitalizing on the trend include Barneys New York's "Green is Groovy" clothing purchases, and Borders, which is allowing shoppers to donate money to First Book, a program that provides books for low-income families. High-end marketers include status-pen marketer Montblanc, which is supporting a literacy initiative called "The Power to Write," backed with sales of the Meisterstuck No. 149 UNICEF 2007 Edition pen. Montblanc is donating $149 of each $695 purchase.

A novel twist comes from the Giving Tree, which is offering a GiveCard, a prepaid MasterCard that lets recipients donate 10% of the card's value to one of 1.5 million nonprofits, while the other 90% is used like cash.

Tags: research, retail
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