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Monday, November 18, 2019
   
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Economic Development

2009 Holiday Shopping Season Likely Disappointing for Local Retailers

SBJ Staff

The most wonderful time of the year might be another one of lackluster sales for retailers in the Coastal Empire and South Carolina Lowcountry, a new Georgia Southern University holiday shopping survey shows.

In fact, according to the survey, a record number of shoppers polled will spend less this year than last.

Consumers seem not to be taking signs of an economic recovery as a signal to spend this season, said the annual survey of more than 500 households by the Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development (BBRED) in Georgia Southern University’s College of Business Administration.

On the positive side, shoppers aren’t as pessimistic as last year, but 42 percent of the ones polled said they won’t be spending as much as last year. Forty-seven percent plan to spend more, the survey found.

The 42 percent figure for shopping who plan to decrease spending is the highest number ever recorded by the poll. Last year, 38 percent of consumers in the survey said they would cut back on spending from previous year levels. The year-ago survey also found that 51 percent planned to spend about the same as the previous year.

“This will be a somewhat slower holiday shopping season, as consumers are looking for good values even as they see the economy being better than it was last year. Consumers are taking a wait-and-see approach and keeping holiday spending in check,” said Ed Sibbald, director of GSU’s Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development.
Fifty-two percent of surveyed shoppers plan to leave their credit cards at home on trips to the mall or outlet centers.

GSU interprets this as an indication that consumers are trying to keep household spending in check.

A further sign of this is that each shopper plans to spend no more than $75 on gifts, compared to last year’s figure of $101. “This is not even close to the high of $132 average per person in 2006,” the survey said.

More than half won’t be pulling out their credit cards, the survey found.

“People are looking to spend cash; they want to spend the money they have in their pockets,” said Ben McKay, Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development research associate.

“Consumers want to believe they will be more responsible with their credit.”

In a further bit of unwelcome news for the region’s retailers, bricks and mortar stores will be sacrificing a big chunk of business to their cyber counterparts this season.

When the dust settles, local stores could find that online retailers hijacked substantial sales volume this season, according to the survey, which reported that 54 percent of survey respondents plan to shop on the Web.

“This is the highest level of online shopping ever recorded by the survey,” GSU said.

On the upside for local retailers, for many consumers online shopping will not comprise their entire holiday list.

“Forty-one percent of respondents planning to shop online will do less than half of their shopping online this year,” the surveyors said.

When they do go out to shop, shoppers will be looking for discounts, with 85 percent of them heading for bargain destinations Wal-Mart and Target. Mid-range retailers such as Macy’s and Belk can expect to draw 70 percent of the shoppers surveyed, while dollar discount stores can expect 39 percent.

The message?

“Discounts are going to be a key part of this holiday season,” the survey said.

And just how steep must the discounts be?

Thirty-six percent of shoppers polled want to see price cuts of a quarter to a half, the surveyors said, noting that 36 percent want discounts of up to 75 percent.

Most of the 527 households surveyed by phone in the first week of November had annual incomes of from $35,000 to $200,000. Sixty-eight percent of respondents were married, and one-third of them had children under 18 living at home.

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