CHICAGO - Retailers looking for a big surge in customer traffic the week after Christmas may be disappointed by a new survey that shows an unusually low number of consumers plan to shop in the post-holiday week.
Only 35 percent of consumers surveyed over the weekend said they would shop in the week after Christmas on December 25, according to survey questions posed by America's Research Group on behalf of Reuters.
That is even lower than the 38 percent of a year earlier. Over the past decade, 48 percent to 55 percent typically said they planned to shop in that week, said America's Research founder Britt Beemer.
Last year was low too, but I thought last year was an anomaly, Beemer said.
Retailers have come to see the week after Christmas as an increasingly important part of the holiday sales season as consumers who held out on shopping are enticed by clearance deals or come to redeem gift cards they have received.
In response to questions asked for Reuters as part of a larger weekend survey, 47 percent of the 1,001 people who responded said they would not shop the week after Christmas, while 18 percent said they had not yet decided whether to visit stores.
In its wider survey, America's Research Group found only 49 percent of consumers were buying gift cards this year, down from 53 percent a year earlier.
Beemer said consumers might be finding prices low enough to lure them to shop before the holiday. He noted that electronics like flat-screen televisions are selling strongly as prices have come down.
Beemer said he now expects sales in the 2009 holiday season to fall only 1.2 percent from last year, versus the 2.9 percent decline he expected in early November. Consumers he interviewed said they were buying more than they originally planned.
That revised forecast is more in line with industry expectations for holiday sales this year to somewhere between slightly higher to slightly lower.
In other questions asked for Reuters, 33 percent of respondents said they would spend more on their holiday meal this year, while 12.6 percent said they will spend less.
Typically, the percentages planning to spend more and less on the holiday meal would be about even, Beemer said. The higher number of people planning to spend more could be because people are planning to travel less this year and might be shifting some of that spending to entertaining, he said.
Cash continues to be king, as only 24 percent of those who said they made a purchase this season used a credit card to pay for it. In 2008, 27 percent to 33 percent said they used credit cards, while as recently as 2004 that number was 48 percent.
Also, 138 of the 353 respondents with teenage children -- or 39 percent -- said they were pulling back on spending on apparel this year, with almost all saying the reason for the cutback was that prices were too high.
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman; editing by John Wallace)