Retailers prepare for biggest shopping week of the year

The average consumer had completed only 52% of their shopping as of last Wednesday, Dec. 10. And despite one more shopping day this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, fewer consumers have checked everything off of their shopping lists. Last year at this time, 15% of consumers had completed their shopping, while this year only 10% of consumers are finished.

These are the findings in third weekly installment of the NRF 2003 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch for NRF.

“We are a nation of procrastinators,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “With many consumers completing their holiday shopping—and some of them just starting—retailers are expecting crowded parking lots and heavy traffic this weekend.” The Saturday before Christmas is the busiest shopping day of the year.

As expected, apparel has been one of the most popular gifts this holiday season, with 44.6% of consumers already having purchased clothing or clothing accessories. Books, CDs, DVDs, videos and video games are also high on gift lists—44.6% of consumers have purchased those gifts as well. Also, 36.5% of consumers have purchased toys and 22.8% have bought gift cards.

“Retailers’ promotions and sales will continue throughout the weekend,” said Phil Rist, Vice President of Strategy for BIGresearch. “Though we won’t be seeing storewide markdowns like we have the last few years, last-minute shoppers will be able to find great values in almost any store.”

A variety of retailers should benefit from increased traffic this weekend. According to the survey, 49.8% of consumers plan to conduct the remainder of their holiday shopping at discount stores, while 43.6% plan to shop at department stores. Nearly a third of consumers will be completing their shopping at specialty stores (32.1%) and online (30.2%).

NRF continues to project that holiday sales will increase 5.7% this year to $217.4 billion, which would be the largest increase since 1999.