One-third of shoppers to hit the malls or keyboard on Black Friday

Consumer Reports News: November 21, 2012 06:08 AM

With just over a month until Christmas, 57 percent of consumers (and 65 percent of men) have yet to begin shopping, mostly because they think they have plenty of time, according to the latest Consumer Reports Holiday Poll. However, in yet another reminder of ongoing tough times, 17 percent said they've delayed shopping because they just don't have enough money.

Despite the economic upheaval of the past four years, most Americans are anxiously awaiting the holidays. Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed said they're looking forward to them; another 26 percent are really looking forward to celebrating the holidays. Nevertheless, there are always a few Scrooges among us. Six percent of respondents said they're not looking forward to the holidays at all.

Neither the state of the economy nor the recent presidential election is affecting cheerfulness one way or the other. Sixty-seven percent of respondents expect to be just as happy this year as in 2011.

The poll, a nationally representative online survey of 1,557 adults 18 and older, reveals that since the recession many Americans have changed their behavior--spending more conservatively, and giving fewer and less-lavish gifts. Indeed, the gifts people are considering this year skew to the practical: clothing, cited by 52 percent of respondents, gift cards (46 percent), toys (39 percent) cash or check (37 percent), and books (31 percent).

With shopping as much a part of the season as eggnog and holiday music, expect millions to be out in force on Black Friday weekend. Thirty-two percent of respondents say they'll hit the stores; 34 percent intend to shop online, the same percentage that plan to order online from the office on Nov. 26 to participate in the phenomenon known as "Cyber Monday."

Since the economy tanked in 2008, half of those surveyed said they're spending less than they did before the recession. Forty-seven percent have economized by buying cheaper gifts; 36 are purchasing fewer presents. Six percent have replaced store-bought items with handmade ones to save money. For the upcoming season, 37 percent of respondents said they intend to spend less than they did in 2011 (only 12 percent indicated they'll spend more).

Budgeting will play a big role this year, too. Fifty-two percent plan to make a holiday spending budget. Hopefully, they'll do a better job living within it. In 2011, one-third of the 41 percent who set a budget exceeded their spending limit; four percent went way over budget.

One problem that hasn't disappeared is holiday debt. Half of shoppers charged gift purchases last year and 13 percent are still paying off credit card debt from those purchases.

While gift cards continue to be desirable, 15 percent of people still have at least one unused card from 2011.When asked why the cards haven't been spent, 29 percent said they haven't had time to use the card; 24 percent indicated they couldn't find anything they wanted to buy; and 23 percent (30 percent of men) simply forgot about the card. Seven percent cited the fact that the card came from a store they didn't like.

Wondering what some of the hot electronics gifts will be? High on the list of those surveyed include: the Amazon Kindle Fire, Apple iPod, iPad mini, and iPhone 5, LeapFrog LeapPad2 Explorer, Nintendo Wii U, Samsung Galaxy S III, and Apple MacBook Air. Among toys: Hasbro's Furby, Barbie Photo Fashion Doll, and Lego Ninjago Epic Dragon Battle.

We recently named the Kindle Fire, iPhone 5, and Galaxy S III standout performers. Find out which other devices are included in our 10 top electronics products review.

—Tod Marks

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