Survey Says Summer Schedules, Rising Fuel Prices Make Consumers Buy from Home

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Busy summer schedules and rising fuel prices are affecting consumer behavior, positioning the home as the new hot destination for summer 2006, according to a survey commissioned by returns management company Newgistics Inc. and conducted by Harris Interactive.

Results show that home shopping is on the rise this summer, with more than one quarter (27 percent) of U.S. adults more likely to shop from home (online, catalog or TV) because of busy schedules and 25 percent more likely to shop from home because of rising gas prices.

Rochester, NY-based Harris Interactive conducted the telephone survey on behalf of Austin, TX-based Newgistics between July 7 and July 10, 2006 among a nationwide cross section of 1,122 U.S. adults ages 18 and over.

According to the survey, an overwhelming number of home shoppers (96 percent) agree that the ability to return merchandise from home is a critical factor when deciding where to make a purchase. If a return process required consumers to travel to a mail center or drop box, only 13 percent of adults who shop from home would be very likely to shop with the retailer again.

In fact, given the option to return purchases directly from home with a pre-paid label, these adults are over four times as likely to shop with the retailer again as those who are restricted to a return process that requires travel to a mail center or drop box.

Also, according to the survey, consumers who are curtailing spending on non-essential items because of rising fuel prices are making trade-offs that put the home at the center of summer activities. Eighty-five percent are cooking at home instead of going out, 55 percent are renting movies instead of going to the movies and 25 percent are shopping from home instead of shopping at stores.

The survey said retailers seeking to reach the growing number of home shoppers need to focus on convenience through the entire purchasing process. Those who shop from home cite numerous benefits including convenience (86 percent), the ability to shop any time of day or night (88 percent), cost savings (63 percent) and fewer concerns about privacy (59 percent). However, these adults also identify barriers that hinder home shopping, including the inability to touch or try on merchandise (79 percent) and costs associated with shipping fees (71 percent). Additionally, 55 percent of home shoppers identify inconvenient returns as a drawback to shopping from home.

According to the survey, 76 percent of those who shop online, through catalogs or television prefer to use a pre-paid U.S. Postal Service label as a return method when shopping from home. This preference rate drops by 25 percent when the merchandise return option requires a trip outside the home -- forcing consumers to take the merchandise to a drop box or post office (50 percent).

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