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    Charleston, SC, January 14, 2009.... Consumers interviewed this weekend about their shopping patterns in December expressed their reluctance to buy anything more than the essentials, saying that they are feeling pressured by debt and credit card bills. The first America’s Research Group/UBS Consumer Mind Reader™ Survey this year revealed that more shoppers are buying only on-sale items and no one is buying new items not on sale. UBS has teamed with America’s Research Group (ARG) for bi-monthly Consumer Mind Reader™ surveys.

    "Retailers are experiencing their most challenging time in three decades," said C. Britt Beemer, CEO and founder of ARG. "Our survey over the weekend confirmed that consumers are in deep hibernation and there is no sign that they will wake up this spring or that the retail outlook will pick up any time soon," he added.

    A third (33.2%) of American consumers today, compared to 23.6% last year, said they are pressured by debt and credit card bills. Almost twenty-nine percent (28.8%) said they are buying only the essentials and on-sale items. This compares with 17.9% who were buying only essentials last year. Those buying new items not on sale are almost nil (4.8%) in 2009 from 10.8% last year.

    In this atmosphere, many consumers are postponing major purchases. Of those who did postpone a purchase:
    • 32.7% didn’t want to spend right now,
    • 26.4% worried about job/financial security,
    • 15.4% said it was "more than they wanted to spend."
    Internet shopping is also down to 27.4% of consumers saying they have bought something on the Internet from 30.5% in 2008.

    In general, consumers now don’t shop at stores that don’t help them save them money, thus discount stores and membership warehouse clubs are seeing more traffic; others less:
    • Discount stores – traffic up to 99.3% in 2009 from 90.1% in 2008,
    • Membership warehouse clubs – traffic up to 26.5% in 2009, from 23.0% in 2008.
    • Major department stores – traffic down to 15.3% in 2009 from 27.5% in 2008,
    • Jewelry stores – traffic down to 1.2% in 2009 from 15.4% in 2008,
    • Mall apparel stores – traffic down to 17.2% in 2009 from 22.0% in 2008.
    Commenting on traffic at jewelry stores, Beemer said, "I’ve never seen a drop such as this in almost 30 years of surveys."

    The America’s Research Group/UBS 2009 Consumer Mind Reader™ Survey consisted of 1,000 telephone interviews conducted Friday, Saturday and Sunday, January 9-11, 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.