Exclusive: U.S. shoppers say storm did not drive them online

 @ibtimes
on December 21 2009 10:27 AM

NEW YORK - A majority of U.S. shoppers say they are shopping the same amount or less online this holiday season, despite web promotions and a weekend storm that struck the East Coast, according to a survey released on Monday.

Nearly 57 percent of respondents said their online shopping was the same as a year ago, while almost 24 percent said they were shopping less on the web, according to questions posed by Reuters as part of a larger survey by America's Research Group.

The survey polled 1,000 people on December 19 and 20, when a severe snowstorm dumped as much as two feet of snow along the East Coast from Washington, D.C., to New England.

The storm forced store closures and stranded many shoppers at home for at least part of the weekend, which had been expected to be one of the biggest shopping periods in the run-up to Christmas on Friday.

About 43 percent of consumers have gone online to do their holiday shopping this year, barely up from nearly 42 percent last year, according to the wider survey by America's Research Group and UBS.

The survey found the storm hampered purchases as a whole, with nearly 42 percent of consumers saying they still have gifts to buy, compared with 21.5 percent who were still shopping at the same point last year.

Retail shares rose 1.2 percent on Monday, as measured by the Standard & Poor's Retail Index .RLX. Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) gained 2.6 percent on expectations it may have lured more shoppers over the weekend.

WALMART, SEARS AMONG TOP SHOPPED

Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) appeared to be the big winner over the weekend, with nearly 56 percent of those surveyed saying they shopped there. Other big draws included Sears (SHLD.O), where more than 22 percent of people shopped, Target (TGT.N) and Best Buy (BBY.N).

Wal-Mart also appears to be a winner for the entire season, based on its ability to get shoppers to return to its stores over the shopping season, according to America's Research Group. Other retailers winning repeat visits from consumers included Target, J.C. Penney (JCP.N) and TJX Co's (TJX.N) TJ Maxx chain.

Consumers continued to seek bargains and flocked back to the discounters that have let them stick to their budgets.

Just over half of U.S. consumers who still hadn't finished their Christmas shopping over the weekend said the lack of deep discounts of up to 70 percent has had a negative impact on their shopping experience this year.

Consumers have a long memory and want those substantial discounts they found last year, says ARG Chief Executive Britt Beemer.

That frustration led consumers to shop at the large discounters and mid-level department stores.

Consumers still eschewed luxury and big ticket items. Saks Inc (SKS.N) and Home Depot Inc (HD.N) lured less than half of their customers for a repeat visit.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Michele Gershberg and John Wallace)

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