Survey says consumers plan to reduce spending this holiday

NEW YORK This season consumers are watching their wallet, shopping carefully and spending less than 10 years ago, according to a new survey by global business advisory firm AlixPartners.

AlixPartners Holiday 2008 Consumer Sentiment Index surveyed 1,000 consumers for their opinions on the economy and their plans for holiday shopping.

Forty-six percent of consumers did not foresee the tightening economy improving for at least three years. A majority—64 percent—of U.S. consumers anticipate spending less on gifts by: spending less on each individual gift (66 percent), “waiting for sales and specials” (60 percent), buying less expensive gifts (52 percent) and shopping at mass-discount stores (33 percent), with Wal-Mart and Target ranking high on the list of most chosen stores among the multiple-choice options.

“Consumers are going to be trading down in terms of which products they buy, in terms of how many products they buy, in terms of the brands they buy and in terms of the types of stores they shop in,” said Matthew Katz, head of AlixPartners’ Retail Performance Improvement Praactice and a managing director with the firm. “Department stores and specialty retailers, we believe, will be particularly hard hit; but no retailer is immune from this tidal wave that looks to be coming as an aftershock to the Wall Street crisis.”

Most U.S. consumers surveyed (87 percent), said that they believe the nation is in the midst of a recession or depression, with 20 percent stating depression.

And 74 percent report not trusting in the government’s ability to make drastic and efficient changes. Eight-six percent expect to spend less than $1,000 on gifts this holiday, 77 percent expect to spend less than last year and 37 expect to spend less than $250.

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