Holiday shoppers are sitting on their duffs more than ever this year, says a national consumer poll. The National Retail Federation, a Washington D.C.-based industry research organization, said only 11.7 percent of shoppers have bought all of their gifts for the season.
Many — nearly 17 percent — haven’t even started. Federation officials said that’s the most procrastination they’ve seen.
Ellen Davis, a federation spokeswoman, said the increasing numbers of holiday Scrooges avoiding the malls follows a long trend.
“There are a couple of reasons,” Davis said. “For starters, gift cards are more popular than ever. Shoppers are smart enough to know that gift cards aren’t ever going to be out of stock. You could buy it on your way to Christmas dinner if you wanted to.” Further encouraging the tardy shoppers is the growing popularity of Internet shopping. Experts say Web shopping is gaining in favor every year.
Finally, stores are staying open later and later, with some retailers staying open farther into Christmas Eve.
“I think that certainly stokes the flames,” she said.
According to the federation, about 53 percent of consumers said they’ve completed about half of their shopping.
Retailers are bracing for a crush of last-minute shoppers by expanding employee work schedules, keeping shelves jam-packed with products and extending store hours.
“It’s definitely going to be a last-minute holiday,” said Heather Jacobs, general manager at the Target on Arizona Avenue near Warner Road in Chandler. Although stores across her division made single-to-double-digit increases in sales during the first weekend after Thanksgiving, sales have softened since.
Frugality is the chief reason many shoppers are biding their time, she said, adding that gasoline prices and the sluggish home real estate market are the main culprits.
“The guest is really waiting until the last minute this year because they want to get the best buy,” she said.
Jay Elliott, a Mesa resident Christmas shopping Tuesday evening at Fiesta Mall, said he usually puts gift-buying off until the last possible minute. Elliott said this year was different because he and his wife are leaving town to visit family.
“That’s forcing us not to be out on Christmas Eve,” he said.
Debbie Femmer of Mesa said she also completed her shopping.
“The malls are too crazy,” she said. “I don’t like driving around for 20 minutes looking for parking.”