From: Reuters
Published November 26, 2007 09:55 AM

Discounters top holiday shopping spot: survey

By Brad Dorfman

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Discount stores were the choice of more Thanksgiving weekend shoppers this year than last, a survey released on Sunday showed in what may be the latest sign that the weak U.S. economy is pushing consumers to cut back on spending.

Almost 65 percent of people who shopped on Friday said one of the places they shopped was at a discount store, according to the survey by America's Research Group, a consumer-behavior marketing firm. That compares with 55.7 percent in 2006, according to the group.

On the other end of the spending spectrum, jewelry stores were named by only 6.3 percent of the people who said they shopped on Friday, compared with 10 percent in 2006, Britt Beemer, founder and chairman of the group, said.

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For the whole weekend, 31.4 percent of people said they did most of their shopping at discount stores, 20.8 percent said department stores and 16.7 percent said electronics stores.

The weekend after Thanksgiving is the unofficial kickoff for the holiday shopping season, though some retailers have been trying to entice shoppers with holiday sales items even earlier this season.

The U.S. housing downturn, higher prices for food and gasoline and concerns that the U.S. economy could be heading toward a recession have prompted many forecasts of weak holiday sales growth. The National Retail Federation has forecast a 4 percent increase in holiday sales this year, the smallest increase in five years.

Another sign of consumers cutting back is the number who said they would spend $100 or more on something for themselves. The 30.2 percent who said "yes" was an all-time low and down from about 42 percent last year, Beemer said.

Many of the people who shopped this weekend got to stores early Friday, snatched up deeply discounted "door-buster" items and were done shopping by the middle of the day, Beemer said.

"What jumped out at me was how big Friday was and how weak Saturday and Sunday were," Beemer said in an interview with Reuters.

Almost a quarter of those who shopped on Friday said they completed at least 75 percent of their holiday shopping that day, a much higher figure than normal, Beemer said, adding that this response might also have something to do with the economy.

"This year, if you got that big screen TV set, that may be all you can afford to buy," Beemer said.

More than 67 percent of those who shopped on Friday said they shopped in the morning and more than 81 percent said they shopped "early bird" specials, the survey said.

But 70 percent also said they saw items they will buy later when stores lower prices, compared with 62.2 percent in 2006, the survey said. Also, 76.5 percent said they bought items other than just the advertised specials.

Despite high-profile recalls of toys this year due to lead paint and other safety hazards, 43.2 percent of people who shopped on Saturday or Sunday named toys as one of the top three items they bought, while electronics came in second at 37.6 percent.

But many of those toys may have been bought at retailers other than toy stores. Only 19.6 percent of those surveyed said they shopped at toy stores this year, down from 30.3 percent in 2006, Beemer said.

The survey includes interviews with 903 consumers who had said in early November that they planned to shop the weekend after Thanksgiving. Interviews were conducted Friday through Sunday.

(Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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