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Harris Poll: 59% of shoppers won’t change holiday spending even with possible government shutdown on horizon

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — According to a Harris Poll released Tuesday, 70% of Americans believe it is likely that the government will shut down again in January, while just 21% believe it is unlikely to shut down. Republicans are more likely than both Democrats and Independents to say it is likely there will be a shutdown in January (79% versus 64% and 67%, respectively).

One concern is that all the uncertainty in Washington, D.C. may have some people rethinking holiday spending and other things. As many as 59% agree that regardless of what happens in the nation’s capital, their spending habits will not change much over the next few months. But, one-third (34%) say their spending habits will change. More specifically, just over half of U.S. adults (53%) agree that because of the uncertainty with the federal government they will probably spend less on holiday presents this year and 45% say they will be less likely to do any year end charitable giving because of the potential government shutdown in January.

As many as 25% of U.S. adults believe the economy will improve in the coming year, while 44% say it will stay the same and 32% say it will get worse. Last month, as the nation was coming out of the government shutdown, 22% believed the economy would improve, 37% said it would stay the same and 41% believed it would get worse.

Looking at individual households, half of Americans believe their household’s financial condition will stay the same over the next six months, while 20% say it will get better and 30% believe it will be worse. Last month, while about half (48%) said it would stay the same, over one-third (34%) said their household finances would get worse and 18% believed it would be better in the next six months. 

 

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Moody’s: Pent-up demand will contribute to modest lift in holiday sales

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Moody’s on Tuesday cut against the grain with its holiday forecasts by suggesting pent-up demand will help give retailers a reason to celebrate Black Friday despite concerns of another government shutdown in January. It’s not what shoppers say they’re going to not do this year, but rather an extension of how shoppers will actually spend based on last season’s behavior. 

"We expect holiday sales growth to be in the 4.5%-to-5.5% range for the 2013 November-December shopping season, compared with 3.8% last year," stated Moody’s assistant VP Michael Zuccaro. "Much of this improvement will be due to pent-up demand as lingering fiscal uncertainties ease and as consumers snap up pivotal new game systems like Playstation 4 and Xbox One."

In the year to date U.S. retailers’ sales and earnings are on track with Moody’s full-year forecasts, the firm stated. Sales growth has been tracking at the lower end of the 3%-5% range, while earnings growth is in the 3.5%-4.5% range. Moody’s believes retailers for the most part have managed inventory levels conservatively and have focused on expense control.

Consumers will continue to prioritize gift-giving for this holiday season, Zuccaro said, noting that last year holiday sales rose modestly despite the fiscal cliff crisis and Hurricane Sandy. "While weak sales in October this year likely reflected concerns about the government shutdown, month-over-month growth in spending on electronics, furniture and sporting goods was strong, which may indicate that consumers have begun to release pent-up demand."

The best-performing segments will again be electronics, toys, party goods and luxury goods, Moody’s says, while retailers whose goods are perceived to be good value for money should also do well. 

 

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Nielsen acquires Harris Interactive

BY Michael Johnsen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The global market research firm Harris Interactive on Monday announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement to be acquired by Nielsen Holdings. 

"This announcement reflects the successful completion of the turnaround strategy that we began in July 2011 and will deliver to Harris Interactive stockholders meaningful value and liquidity immediately upon closing," said Al Angrisani, Harris Interactive president and CEO. "Harris Interactive’s board of directors selected the Nielsen transaction after a thorough review of the company’s strategic alternatives that began earlier this year," he said. "By combining Nielsen’s global capabilities and scale with Harris Interactive’s extensive industry and research expertise, we’ll be able to drive outcomes and innovate to bring new methods to understanding consumers around the world."

"For our existing CPG and media clients, our combined capabilities will provide better and more integrated insights to help them drive business outcomes," added John Lewis, president, Americas, Nielsen.  "Harris Interactive’s strength with other industry verticals allows us to serve these clients with Nielsen’s differentiated solutions in areas such as marketing effectiveness, social and digital to achieve our growth objectives."

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Nielsen will commence a tender offer to acquire all of the outstanding shares of Harris Interactive’s common stock through a wholly owned subsidiary formed for the purpose of making the offer. Holders of outstanding shares of Harris Interactive’s common stock will receive $2 per share in cash, subject to adjustment as provided in the merger agreement. The $ per share cash purchase price represents a 2% premium to the volume weighted average closing price of Harris Interactive’s common stock in the 60 consecutive trading days prior to announcement of the transaction.  

The Harris Interactive board of directors has unanimously approved the transaction and certain of the directors of Harris Interactive have entered into tender and support agreements, representing approximately 12% of the outstanding shares of Harris Interactive’s common stock, pursuant to which they have agreed to tender all of their shares pursuant to the tender offer.

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