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    Charleston, SC, March 12, 2009.... No signs of economic recovery anytime this year: that's the opinion of American consumers interviewed this weekend in the second America's Research Group/UBS Consumer Mind Reader™ Survey. The survey found that five in nine consumers (56.6%) plan to spend less this year while virtually no one, only 6.1%, plans to spend more. UBS has teamed with America's Research Group (ARG) for bi-monthly Consumer Mind Reader™ surveys.

    "American consumers are hunkered down, bracing for a depression," said C. Britt Beemer, CEO and founder of ARG. "The dramatic drops in shopping levels have no match in our database in the last 30 years," he added.

    The stimulus package signed into law on February 17 by President Obama is not affecting consumer behavior, according to the survey data. Of those who said they plan to spend less this year, only 10.3% said they might spend more now because of the stimulus package. Only 8.9% feel the stimulus package will have any real effect in 2009, while 35.9% feel it will have more in 2010, and 24.7% believe the real impact will come in 2011.

    Just over seven in ten consumers (70.9%) expect an income tax refund, but they say that at least 70% to 75% of the refund will go to pay regular bills, debts, and credit card balances.

    "It's ironic that 57.6% of American consumers say they feel that the stimulus package will benefit them, while their family's personal financial situation continues to decline," Beemer said.

    As result of the consumer gloom, sales were down sharply over the President's Day Weekend. Over the holiday weekend, under a quarter of Americans (24.3%) shopped, the lowest figure recorded in ARG surveys. "All indications tell me that the retail sector is sliding into a depression," says Beemer.

    Of the 28 categories of retailers studied in the survey, only membership warehouse clubs saw an increase in store traffic and store sales. Store traffic at membership warehouse clubs jumped from 15.5% to 20.1% and their sales rose from $29.74 to $32.14 on a per household basis.

    All other categories are experiencing a severe downturn:
    • Jewelry stores experienced a total collapse with traffic falling from 8.1% of Americans shopping there in February 2008 to only 0.5% shopping in jewelry stores last month,
    • Major department stores saw their store traffic drop from 11.8% last February to 5.2% in February 2009,
    • Appliance/electronics/computer stores fell from 24.0% to 17.9% in February 2008 to February 2009,
    • Toy stores are not immune either, watching their store traffic drop from 13.3% to only 5.0%.

    The America's Research Group/UBS 2009 Consumer Mind Reader™ Survey consisted of 1,000 telephone interviews conducted Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, March 5 - 9, 2009, at America's Research Group headquarters in Charleston, SC. The error factor is plus or minus 3.8%.

    America's Research Group is one of the nation's foremost consumer research and strategic marketing firms. CEO Britt Beemer is a key resource and advisor to leading brands and top retailers. He is author of The Customer Rules, a new book published by McGraw-Hill.

    UBS Global Equity Research provides the broad global perspective and in-depth analysis that institutional investors need to make good investment decisions. With more than 600 analysts, associates, strategists and economists in EMEA, APAC and the Americas, UBS covers approximately 85% of the world market capitalization - over 3,300 companies worldwide across 46 different markets. In addition to UBS's disciplined fundamental research, clients also rely on UBS for corporate and expert access to give them the insight they need, when they need it.

    Barbara Burns (212) 486-1140