Updated: Sat, 11/24/2012 - 12:16

Holiday shopping survey says Coastal Empire consumer optimism growing

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As tens of thousands of Savannah-area residents begin their holiday shopping this weekend, more than half plan to spend approximately the same amount this year as last, according to a Georgia Southern University survey.

Georgia shoppers plan to spend on average $970 on gifts and buy for 9.8 people, GSU’s Bureau of Business Research and Economic Development found through its annual fall Consumer Confidence Survey.

A summary of the survey was released earlier this week. Full results will be released in the coming days.

The survey was conducted in late October by a GSU marketing research class. Almost 3,300 phone calls were made, with 295 responses.

The survey covered the entire state and respondents “skewed toward female, older, white and married residents when compared to the Georgia population.”

Results reflect a growing optimism over the state of the economy, said GSU researcher Ben McKay. Only 25 percent of respondents plan to spend less than last year, and the amount spent for each family member — $113 — continues to creep up.

“I think as people get ready to start their holiday shopping, we see a little bit more positive picture than we have in years past,” McKay said. “I think that consumers are, if not more optimistic, they are more adjusted to the current conditions.”

Shoppers ramped up activity this weekend, with 54 percent of survey participants saying they would complete most of their Christmas shopping between Black Friday and Dec. 15.

However, 22 percent said they would be done before Thanksgiving.

Most of the early shoppers are women, according to the survey.

Shopping early is gaining traction nationally. A survey conducted earlier this month for the National Retail Federation revealed 52.8 percent started shopping prior to Nov. 6, up from 51.4 percent in 2011.

The organization’s president, Matthew Shay, credited savvy shoppers and proactive retailers for the trend.

“In order to win over savvy shoppers this year, retailers are well aware that their deals have to stand out, and it looks like there’s plenty of people eager to get their hands on the exclusive promotions we are already seeing,” Shay said.

 

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