Study: Catalog Shoppers Are Bigger Holiday Spenders

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Shoppers in a recent survey who said they expect to make holiday purchases from catalogs plan to spend an average of $1,233 on gifts this year compared with an average of $1,037 for shoppers overall. The overall figure is down slightly from $1,052 last year.

Of a reportedly random sample of 1,100 adults nationwide surveyed Nov. 15-18 by American Research Group Inc., 44 percent said they plan to make holiday gift purchases from catalogs. This is up from 40 percent in 2001, but down from 50 percent in 2000.

The Internet made gains, as 39 percent said they plan holiday shopping online this year, up from 15 percent in 2001 and 24 percent in 2000, according to American Research, Manchester, NH.

The average planned spending by those who said they will buy gifts online this year is $1,056, American Research said.

"The slight decrease in holiday spending plans compared to the 2001 season bodes well for some retailers and marketers as consumer spending estimates tend to increase as the holidays approach," the report said, "but retailers will have to be very well-tuned to their markets as this is the shortest holiday season since 1996 and 55 percent of consumers say they will wait for sales before making gift purchases."

This is only the second time that planned holiday gift spending has exceeded $1,000 since American Research began the survey in 1985, the report said.

Twenty-seven percent of those surveyed said they will pay full price for gifts, compared with 23 percent last year and 31 percent in 2000.

Just 41 percent said they have begun their holiday shopping, compared with 52 percent at this time last year and 48 percent in 2000, the report said. Planned spending for those who have begun is $1,180 compared with $903 for those who have not.

According to American Research, 49 percent of consumers think the economy is in a recession and 42 percent do not.

Yet planned spending remains relatively high because 87 percent rated their household financial situation as excellent, very good or good. Twenty-three percent said they think their situation is improving, 58 percent said their finances are staying the same, and 16 percent said they are getting worse.

Looking ahead, 55 percent said they think their financial situation will be better a year from now, 32 percent said it will stay the same and 10 percent said it will be worse.

Also, 20 percent rated the economy as getting better; 45 percent said it is staying the same and 33 percent said they think it is getting worse.

Fifty-six percent said they think the economy will be better a year from now, while 43 percent said the current economy is good and 38 percent said it is bad.

"This will be a year of hits and misses as there is no rising tide of holiday spending that will lift all retailers and marketers," Dick Bennett, president of American Research Group, said in a statement.

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