Forecast: Black Friday to give retailers holiday boost

Charleston, S.C. -- A shopping forecast released Tuesday by America’s Research Group found that 31.8% of U.S. consumers said they will shop Black Friday Weekend in search of big-ticket items. But the biggest boost will be in the five days before Christmas when more Americans than in the last seven years say they will shop.

"52.6% of Americans say they will 'hibernate' for much of the shopping season and then step out to shop in the five days before Christmas, which we're now calling Christmas Friday through Monday,” said Britt Beemer, chairman and CEO of America's Research Group. “Americans are far more bargain-driven this year -- up from 49% last year -- and say they will wait for the deepest discounts of the season, which they believe will be offered in the last days before Christmas.”

The report forecasts that Christmas retail sales should rise 1.8% to 2.8% this year, “but that will depend on retailers," said Beemer. "Our research shows that if retailers pull back after Black Friday Weekend and don't offer bigger discounts than ever before, many Americans will go into hibernation until the last five days before Christmas when retailers are advertising fifty, sixty and seventy percent off," said Beemer. "The impact of store advertising will continue to be huge.”

And, this year, other factors besides finances are impacting consumer spending. Nearly 16% said they had been impacted by Hurricane Sandy; and of those, 37.2% describe their impact as serious, very serious or devastating.

According to the forecast, on Black Friday Americans want far bigger deals, too (44.8% versus 40.6% last year). If they do shop, they are looking for big ticket items (31.8% versus 24.6% last year). Americans also report that they will shop for fewer people than they did last year (shopping for five or less jumped from 13.7% last year to 20.2% this year). 50.3% will shop at off-price/membership clubs up from 47.8% last year; the number-one gift price range is $36-$50 (36.2% up from 26. 2%); credit card usage is down (22.5% versus 24.2% last year); there are more gift cards in the $21-$25 range (21.4% last year versus 27.6% this year); and the types of gifts Americans say they will purchase are mostly small this year (36.8% up from 30.1% last year) -- with the trend towards homemade gifts among the most important of the season (27.5% of Americans say they will give homemade gifts).