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Release Date: 10/31/2011

Consumer Reports Poll: Fewer Consumers Expect A Jolly 2011 Holiday Shopping Season

Forty-four Percent Cite Personal Finance, National Economic Woes as Biggest Concern; Four in Ten Say Getting a Good Deal Will be More Important This Year

YONKERS, NY — Roughly 200 million Americans are expected to go shopping for gifts this holiday season, although with slightly less optimism than last year.  According to a new Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll, just 33 percent of Americans said they expect to be happier this holiday season than last, compared to 40 percent who felt that way a year ago.

The full results of the Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll are available at www.ConsumerReports.org.

“As we approach the 2011 winter holidays – the fourth straight season set against a backdrop of economic uncertainly – Americans remain fixated on finances: their own and that of the nation,” said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior editor and resident shopping expert. “So it’s not surprising that people are even more intent on watching their dollars, shopping on a set budget and, of course, bargain-hunting.” 

Consumers were twice as likely to indicate that they planned to spend less money (33 percent) this holiday season than more (15 percent). Fifty-two percent indicated that they planned to make a budget. However, making and sticking to a budget are two different things. During the 2010 holiday season, for instance, respondents said they anticipated spending a median of $457 on gifts, but indicated in Consumer Reports’ January follow-up poll that they actually spent a median of $556, which was 22 percent more. Moreover, 45 percent of those who made a budget last year exceeded it. Five percent went over budget by a lot.

Predictably, many Americans will be economizing this year. And when they do cut back, 40 percent of consumers say they’ll be spending less money on gifts for themselves compared to last year, 36 percent will spend less on travel, 35 percent won’t spend as much on decorations and 30 percent will cut back on gifts for pets.

Additional findings from Consumer Reports first Holiday Shopping Poll of 2011 include:

Tackling Holiday Shopping

  • As of mid-October, three in four Americans had not begun their holiday shopping.

The Bargain-hunting Continues

  • Forty-four percent of respondents feel that getting a good deal is more important than it was last year, only 4 percent feel it is less important.

Cash or Charge?

  • Half of consumers (53 percent) used a credit card to pay for all or some of their 2010 holiday gift purchases, up from 47 percent the previous year.
  • As of October, 6 percent of consumers – about 14.1 million adults – are still carrying debt from last holiday season.

Top Gift Items

  • Seventy percent of consumers plan to give clothing as a gift this year, 65 percent, electronics, 62 percent, gift cards, 58 percent, toys and 55 percent say they’ll give cash

Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll Methodology
The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted two telephone surveys of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. 1,009 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+ between January 7-10, 2011 for the post 2009 holiday data. Another 1,006 interviews were completed among adults aged 18+ between October 14-17, 2011 for the first holiday poll of 2011.  The margin of error is +/- 3% points at a 95% confidence level.

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.   Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

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