Consumers to retailers: My shopping’s done, family’s near, but I’ll spend again if more sales appear

A third of holiday shoppers have completed their gift buying, according to a new consumer survey by America’s Research Group (ARG). And another third are 75%-90% finished.

Britt Beemer, head of the Charleston, S.C.-based research firm, attributed this efficiency to post 9/11 priorities. Spending time with family, relaxing, baking, cooking, and sprucing up homes are more important this year than spending time at the mall, Beemer told the media yesterday.

Good deals are motivating shoppers. Consider that Wal-Mart has reaped (for the second year in a row, according to ARG’s findings) the majority of shoppers’ dollars, followed by Kmart, Sears, JC Penney, and Target.

What could bring shoppers back to the malls? A quarter said they’d be persuaded by 50%-off sales, but that creates a catch-22: Beemer points out that retailers’ bottom lines already have been hurt by heavy discounting.

But encouraging news exists. Nearly 41% of consumers say they’re splurging on “something nice” for themselves, and bargains have led people to spend more than they anticipated.