From: Barbara Burns 212 486-1140
Britt Beemer 800-723-3253

--- Consumers Turned Off by Lack of Storewide Discounts, Poor Service, Survey Shows ---
---Retailing guru Britt Beemer finds shoppers holding back, discounters getting most of the action---

NEW YORK, NY, Nov. 30 - Shoppers avoided shopping in surprisingly large numbers this past Thanksgiving weekend, due to no department or storewide discounts and turned off by a lack of service, according to a Sunday night survey by America's Research Group.

"It was not the best kick-off to the holiday shopping season," said Britt Beemer, chairman of the Charleston S.C. consumer strategy firm. "I was mostly surprised that 4 out of 9 (44.7%) Americans that had planned to shop this all-important weekend, did not." Beemer said.

"So many people staying home, unmoved by a few early-bird specials on the heaviest-promoted retail day of the year, is not good."

The retail analyst also expressed surprise at the number of Americans who shopped on Friday and found stores short-handed. A lack of adequate sales help resulted in an average of just 4 stores shopped that day, with the majority of consumers doing their shopping in discount stores while major department stores were a distant second choice.

Beemer's key findings include:

Of the consumers who planned to shop over Thanksgiving weekend, 44.7% did not shop. Last year, 65% of those who said they would shop, did.

Shoppers are disappointed at poor service and lack of sales help. Almost 42% of Friday shoppers said they were unhappy. (25% is a normal response rate)

  • Over two-thirds (67.6%) went to four stores or less.
  • Electronic and toy stores took a back seat to discount and major department stores. Seven of ten shoppers went to discounters such as Kmart, Wal-Mart and Target and 57.3% went to stores such as Sears and JCPenney. Only about one in four went to toy stores (26.5%) and electronics stores (25.6%).
  • Friday shoppers spent an average of $360.30. o A third (32.5%) spent more than they planned, compared to the typical response rate around 20%.
  • Almost three out of five (59.0%) saw items that they liked but said they will wait to buy them when they are reduced in price. o Of those consumers who shopped Saturday or Sunday, 68.0% said that they purchased items they saw advertised.
  • Of those who bought advertised specials, 70.6% also bought something else.
  • Of people who shopped Saturday or Sunday, 85.6% said they would go back to the same stores when they return to finish shopping.
  • Toys topped the weekend purchases:
    • 42.4% Toys
    • 25.0% Fragrances (perfume or cologne)
    • 22.8% Childrens clothing
    • 16.8% Video games
    • 16.3% Jewelry

"Stores opened earlier than ever this year and those retailers who had great bargains and got a lot of shoppers were the big winners and will continue to win," Beemer concluded from the survey. "This Christmas may already be decided by those stores who treated their customers well the weekend just past. With so many shoppers saying they will return to the same stores to finish their gift buying, much will depend on maintaining a good shopping climate the rest of the season." he said.

"On the positive side there's a lot of shopping yet to do," Beemer pointed out. "Less than two of five Friday shoppers (37.6%) feel they completed at least three-fourths of their buying."

On the e-commerce side, the survey revealed that already 8.4% of those surveyed had shopped via the Internet since November 1st. "This is very close to our original estimate of 10% of shoppers getting on-line for Christmas purchases," he added. "However, it seems that people will go there faster if they can't find what they want in-stock at the price they prefer."

Beemer still holds to his November 1 prediction that Christmas sales will increase by 6.2% this year. The survey was conducted by telephone Sunday, November 28, and has a margin of error of ±4.3 percent. ARG interviewed over 80% of those adults who said they planned to shop on Thanksgiving weekend in an earlier survey. This is the sixth year that America's Research Group has tracked Christmas retail sales.

Britt Beemer founded America's Research Group in 1979. His research clients are many of the leading corporations of America, including Furniture Brands International, JCPenney, Sealy Mattress, and Barnes & Noble.

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