NRF survey: Consumers still have more than half of their shopping to do

Washington, D.C. -- The Consumer Intentions and Actions survey released Wednesday by the National Retail Federation and conducted by BIGresearch found that, as of the second week in December, the average person has completed 46.5% of their holiday shopping.

Last year at this time, the average shopper had completed 49.5% of their shopping.

“For consumers, the holiday season is more of a marathon than a sprint – typically starting the season strong, pacing themselves in the middle and gearing up again in the final stretch, a trend retailers expect every year,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “As the hours tick toward Christmas, retailers still have a few tricks up their sleeves to entice even the most extreme procrastinators looking to cross the final names off their lists.”

According to the survey, nearly 37 million people (16.5%) had not even started their shopping as of late last week, while 7.6% said they have completely finished shopping already. The survey also found the average 25-34 year-old has finished about 50.2% of their shopping – the most of any age group.

Online shopping will continue to be robust, as 45.5% of those polled will do the remainder of their shopping online, the highest percent in the survey’s nine-year history and up from 37.6% last year. More people will also flock to their favorite department (44% versus 38.4% last year) and electronics stores (23% versus 19.4% in 2010). Discount stores (35.9%), grocery stores (12.5%), specialty stores (10.7%) and even outlets (12.5%) will also see their share of increased holiday traffic in the coming days.

Continuing to grow in popularity for both gift givers and recipients, 31.4% of shoppers said they have already bought gift cards/gift certificates this holiday season, up from 29.9% last year. As witnessed over Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend, discretionary gifts are on the rise this holiday season: apparel (44.2% versus 43.9%), electronics (23.8% versus 21.3% in 2010), toys (36.3% versus 35.3% in 2010), jewelry (15.9% versus 14.1% last year) and personal care items (17.1% versus 16.3% last year) rank as some of the top gifts so far this year.

According to the survey, which included these questions for the first time, three in 10 (31.4%) tablet owners will use their device to purchase products and 30.5% will use it to look up retailer information such as store hours, location and directions. Most smartphone owners will utilize their mobile device to research products: nearly one-third (31.2%) will compare prices/research items with their smartphone.

When it comes to preferred payment methods, consumers are still keen on paying for gifts with money they already have. Four in 10 (40.4%) say they have primarily paid for their gifts with a debit or check card, while one-quarter (24.8%) have used cash. Slightly less than one-third (31.7%) used a credit card.

The survey found most people will wrap up their lists a week before Christmas. Nearly one-third (32%) of shoppers said they will buy their last gift before Dec. 18, and another 10.9% will wait until the very last minute and finish their shopping on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.