Travel Down For Turkey Day

A new survey from American Express reports that 30% of U.S. consumers plan to adjust this year's travel plans for Thanksgiving, historically one of the busiest travel days of the year, but only 21% expect those expenses to decrease compared to last year.

Respondents whose plans are changing said they'll rely more on automobile travel, stay for a shorter time and cash-in rewards to help pay for holiday trips. The most significant changes are from the young professionals, 37% of whom said they've adjusted their plans versus the affluent and general population (both 30%). In addition:

  • 19% of the general population who traveled last year will be staying home in 2009
  • 11% of young professionals indicated they intend to drive as opposed to fly, compared to 7% of the general population and 6% of the affluent
  • 8% of young professionals intend to stay fewer days for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, compared to the affluent and general population (both 3%)
  • 7% of the young professionals are using rewards points, miles and special offers to off-set the cost, versus 4% of the affluent and 3% of the general population

The study indicates that consumers have not measurably changed their overall outlook on spending compared to last month but they are starting to open their wallets for the holiday season. They expect, however, to be more selective.

  • Consumers said they plan to spend significantly more over the next 30 days on travel, compared to last month (41% versus 33%)
    Nearly eight in ten of the affluent expect to spend more, or about the same, over the next 30 days on dining out (78%)
  • Compared to last month, consumers expect to decrease spending in groceries (49% versus 40%), grooming (23% versus 16%) and tuition (19% versus five%)

Pamela Codispoti, American Express Senior Vice President and General Manager, Cardmember Services, notes that "... consumers plan to open their wallets... starting with Thanksgiving travel, but... are re-prioritizing those expenses... spending on dining and travel are very important to them during this holiday season."

The survey found that 80% of consumers intend to make end-of-year holiday gift purchases. In an encouraging sign, 22% of consumers intend to do so in October, nearly 30% said they would wait until November and 28% expect to wait until December to shop. Significantly more women plan to make holiday purchases in October than their male counterparts (28% versus 16%). And, when asked if a promotion would entice them to shop early:

  • 82% of respondents said they could be enticed by some sort of retail discount, with virtually all young professionals and affluent agreeing (96% and 94% respectively).
  • Young professionals seemed easier to motivate, saying they would be willing to begin spending with discounts as low as 10%. By contrast, the affluent said it would take a discount of nearly 30%, on average, to open their wallets
  • 18% of consumers could not be motivated by a discount and of that group, 58% said they are on a strict budget, while 43% indicated it is just too early to start holiday shopping

Halloween, viewed by many as the unofficial start of the holiday season, has grown in popularity among both adults and children. According to the National Retail Federation, in 2008 U.S. consumers spent $5.8 billion on Halloween activities. The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker found that 33% of consumers are shifting their Halloween plans compared to last year, and some, especially the young professionals are getting creative in order to save money.

  • Of young professionals, 36% are purchasing less expensive costumes and decorations compared to 16% of the affluent and 15% of the general population
  • 26% of young professionals are making their own costume or using hand-me-downs compared to 13% of the affluent and 11% of the general population

The Spending & Saving Tracker Study is about consumers' views on the economy and what is motivating them to spend and save. The research was conducted online September 24 - 29, 2009 among a random sample of 2,009 adults aged 18 and older. Affluent is defined as having a minimum annual household income of $100,000. The Young Professionals are less than 30 years of age, having a college degree, and a minimum annual household income of $50,000.

For more information, please visit American Express here.


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