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Shoppers have finished less than half their holiday shopping, survey finds

As of the middle of last week, the average consumer had bought only 46.7% of his or her gifts, down from 47.1% at the same time last year, the National Retail Federation said.

December 17, 2009|By Andrea Chang
  • A retail trade group's survey found that only 8.6% of U.S. consumers had finished their holiday shopping as of the middle of last week, and 19% hadnÂ’t started. Above, shoppers at the Beverly Center in Los Angeles.
A retail trade group's survey found that only 8.6% of U.S. consumers… (David McNew / Getty Images )

Christmas is right around the corner, but your gift might still be sitting at the mall.

In a survey released Wednesday, the National Retail Federation said that on average, consumers had completed just 46.7% of their holiday shopping by the middle of last week.

That's slightly less than the 47.1% completed by the same time last year, according to the retail trade group, and the lowest percentage since 2004, when the average consumer had completed 46.3%.

Nearly 42 million (19.1%) had not even started their shopping as of the middle of last week, while 8.6% of shoppers had finished.

The results are somewhat surprising given retailers' warnings this season that good merchandise would sell out quickly because of lower inventory levels.

Now, with just over a week left until Christmas, procrastinators could actually find some great deals, said Tracy Mullin, president of the Washington, D.C., retail federation.

"Retailers know the final lap counts the most and are planning to emphasize promotions and discounts to bring in last-minute shoppers," Mullin said. "As Christmas Day creeps closer, retailers will be ready for an influx of procrastinators, from those who are checking the final names off their list to millions who haven't even started shopping."

With many people shopping for bargains and convenience, discount stores and department stores can expect to see the most traffic in the coming days, the retail group said. More than a third of respondents (38%) said they would shop online.

The survey, in which 9,929 consumers were polled from Dec. 1 to 9, also found that fewer people preferred to use credit cards to pay for their purchases this year. Popular shopping categories included apparel, books, CDs, DVDs, toys and gift cards.

The trade group also said Wednesday that it continued to forecast that holiday sales would decline 1% from last year.

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