Consumer Payment Card News

Holiday Recap

Now that the dust has settled from the holiday shopping season, the American Express Retail Index reports on this years trends.

In their second annual study, this year of 500 consumers and 275 retailers conducted December 28 through 30, 1998, American Express revealed that the average shopper spent $1,148 on total holiday expenses. That amount was 14% less than those surveyed said they would spend when asked just before the holidays, but still up 15% over the 1997 holiday season. That $1,148 works out this way:

–$865 on gifts
–$134 on entertaining
–$45 on travel
–$64 on decorations and gift wrap
–$40 on other holiday-related items

Men spent more than women did, and married persons spent nearly twice as much as single shoppers. This year Northeasterners spent $944 per person on gifts, more than any other region. As expected, online shopping was a hit this season, with three times as many consumers using the Internet this year as in 1997.

The American Express Retail Index reports that the most popular place to shop this season was at department stores, followed by discount department stores, clothing stores, toy stores, electronics stores, specialty stores, and music/video stores, in that order.

As expected, a lot of Americans got their holiday shopping done at the last minute, with the shopping peak hitting two to three days before Christmas, and even the day after Christmas. Thirty percent said they would continue to shop into the New Year, primarily because of the great sales.

Some of the reasons consumers cited for choosing one retailer over another were:

–Carried a specific item he/she was looking for
–Store offers good selection and value
–Store is conveniently located
–Saw newspaper ads for promotional sales
–Store happened to be in a mall where he/she was shopping
–Received promotional circulars

The vast majority of shoppers (96%) claimed that they had no trouble finding the items for which they were shopping. The most popular gifts for children were clothing, and, of course, dolls/action figures, such as Barbies, Beanie Babies, Rugrats, Teletubbies and the hit Furbys. Nearly half of adults surveyed said they splurged on at least one person, usually a spouse/partner or a son/daughter. No matter who the recipient was, these were the most popular categories of gift giving:

–Electronics under $100
–Womens Accessories
–Electronics over $100
–Home Furnishing/Decorating items

If youre an average American shopper, you used credit cards, ATM/debit cards and checks to make your holiday purchases, and youll be paying off your holiday credit card bills by February 1999.

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