An unprecedented 22 percent of U.S. consumers said they did not finish their Christmas shopping this year as fewer discounts kept many wallets closed, according to a survey released on Tuesday.
While nearly 63 percent said bigger deals were needed to loosen their purse strings, about 11 percent blamed bad weather that hit the U.S. East Coast and Midwest on the weekend before Christmas, according to Britt Beemer, founder of consumer research and marketing firm America's Research Group.
"This is the lowest number of consumers finishing shopping in all my 26 years of tracking retail sales during the holiday season," Beemer said.
In a typical year, 82 percent to 88 percent of consumers complete their holiday shopping, he said.
"Many of those who didn't finish said they couldn't afford to spend more," Beemer said. Many consumers decided to give cash instead of presents, which ultimately may not be used for store purchases.
Others opted for gift cards, but the most popular amount was a lower $20, versus $25 to $30 in 2008.
According to the survey, overall online shopping did not benefit from these trends, as 42 percent of shoppers said they bought gifts on the Web, compared with 41 percent a year ago.
Retailers have sought to limit discounting in a bid to protect their margins this season, but retraining shoppers — who saw discounts of as much as 70 percent last year — is more easily said than done.
Beemer's survey was based on telephone interviews of 1,000 consumers on Dec. 26-27, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent.
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