Consumers Lagging in their Gift Buying

Consumers have been well behind in finishing their holiday shopping, when compared with prior years, completing about 20 percent of holiday-gift buying, according to a recent survey. In addition, only 50 percent of households have half or more of their holiday shopping complete.

Consumers say that they perceive more time and more gift options, according to a special holiday survey conducted Dec. 13-16 and commissioned by the International Council of Shopping Centers, Inc. and UBS Securities, LLC.

The top reason cited (67 percent) for the last-minute push is that consumers recognize and plan to shop on the weekend before Christmas. The second most cited reason was a perception that the 32 shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas also added to the feeling of more time to shop.

In addition, the greater acceptance of the gift card as a holiday present allowed consumers to shop later (52 percent). However, contrary to popular belief, consumers are not necessarily shopping later because they expect more discounts, the survey found (see chart below).

“Consumers—who tend to procrastinate by nature—have been completing their 2007 holiday buying later than in prior holiday seasons,” said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC chief economist and director of research. “However, now the time has come when consumers must complete their holiday shopping without further delay,” he added.

The results based on a telephone survey conducted among a national probability sample of 1,005 adults comprising 503 men and 502 women 18 years of age and older, living in private households in the continental United States. The poll has a margin of error of plus minus 3 percent.