76% of U.S. shoppers scaling back holiday spending: survey

'Tis the season to be thrifty, according to a Consumer Reports survey that suggests 76 per cent of U.S. shoppers plan to scale back their holiday spending this year.

'Tis the season to be thrifty, according to a Consumer Reports survey that suggests 76 per cent of U.S. shoppers plan to scale back their holiday spending this year.

The non-profit magazine released the results of the survey, which included 1,001 adults, on Thursday.

Tod Marks, senior project editor, said the results show shoppers plan to be more prudent in their spending amid the economic downturn.

"Being a tightwad doesn't mean you're a cheapskate — it just means you spend your money wisely, and have more to spend on the things you really want this holiday season," Marks said in a release.

The survey also found the following:

  • Consumers said they planned to spend less on gifts, travel, entertainment, tips, greeting cards and charitable donations.
  • Six per cent of respondents said they were still paying off debt from gifts they purchased in 2007.
  • Fifty-nine per cent said they planned to to create a budget this year. 
  • Eighty-four per cent said they would rein in self-indulgence and buy fewer things for themselves.
  • Forty per cent of respondents said they planned to trim some friends from their gift lists.
  • Thirty per cent  said they were scaling back gifts to service providers and 29 per cent said they were cutting back on presents for co-workers.

The survey was conducted from Oct. 16 to Oct. 19. The margin of error is +/- 3 per cent at a 95 per cent confidence level.

U.S. consumers are expected to scale back spending on gifts and travel this holiday season. ((Canadian Press))
The holiday spending forecast in Canada is also expected to be modest. In mid-October, the Conference Board of Canada reported consumer confidence had dropped to its lowest level since 1982.

"We've seen a softening as the year has gone on, but we're still expecting by the end of the year to see sales similar to last year's levels, or up a bit," said Derek Nighbor, the Retail Council of Canada's senior vice-president of national affairs.

Many Canadian retailers say they won't bring their prices in line with the falling value of the Canadian dollar until 2009. They purchased wholesale merchandise or the holiday season months ago, before the loonie started to decline.

In a forecast released this week, Ernst and Young's Daniel Baer said consumers will likely do a lot of holiday shopping at supercentres and warehouse clubs this holiday season.

Baer also suggested consumers will still gravitate toward consumer electronics, though people will likely think twice about pricey items such as LCD televisions and expensive cellphones.

Slowing traffic worries retailers

Luu Le of Ipix Photography in Winnipeg said traffic has slowed considerably this year.

"Looking at the traffic and the number of people in the mall, worry is at the top of my mind," he said.

Andrea McAulay, a sales associate with Bowring, said the home accessories store chain has launched an aggressive advertising campaign to attract shoppers.

"They're doing a lot of customer e-mail blasts — where they're sending coupons and discounts through e-mail," she said.

Cheryl Mazur, centre manager of Winnipeg's St. Vital mall, said traffic has decreased by about five per cent but she expects larger centres to record bigger declines.

"Across the country they've seen larger drops — you know, double-digit drops — so it's the bigger markets that are seeing more of the downturn."

With files from the Canadian Press