Nielsen Forecasts Coal in Your Stocking

This holiday season is shaping up to be every bit the product of the
sustained economic downturn and shaken consumer confidence that have
prevailed throughout 2009, according to a new analysis by Nielsen.

The research company canvassed consumers about their shopping plans for
the holidays, and 42 percent of the respondents said they planned to spend
less this year than last, compared to just 4 percent who said they planned
to spend more.

Nielsen’s survey found that the e-commerce sector could be in for an
especially disappointing season, as just 63 percent of consumers polled said
they planned to shop online this year. That’s down from 71 percent of
respondents in a similar survey Nielsen conducted last year, and 73 percent
in 2007.

“While the economy appears to be improving at a snail’s pace, it’s
apparent that many consumers intend to spend less and save more this holiday
season,” Ken Cessar, vice president of industry insights at the Nielsen
Company, said in a blog post describing the survey.

Nielsen also found a higher percentage of consumers who said they would
not make an e-commerce purchases this year, and an increased number of
respondents who said they planned to spend less online this year than in
years past.

For instance, 42 percent of the respondents to last year’s survey said
they planned to spend more than $300 online over the holiday season. This
year, that figure dropped to 31 percent, and 22 percent of consumers polled
said they planned to spend less than $100 online.

If Nielsen’s survey bears out, it would continue an e-commerce
contraction that began last year, when online holiday spending dipped 3
percent
from the previous year, according to online metrics firm
comScore. That marked the first sequential decline in the e-commerce sector
since 2001, and in part reversed the momentum that had been building through
the decade as online shopping marched steadily toward the mainstream of
consumer activity.

Respondents to Nielsen’s survey said that convenience was the strongest
draw for shopping online rather than heading out to the stores, identifying
price as a secondary concern.

However, many consumers said they used the Internet as a tool for
comparison shopping, scouring retailers’ Web sites for pricing and product
information as they plan their shopping trip.

“Although many consumers don’t feel that they save money by making
purchases online, they do view the Internet as a deal-seeking venue,” Cessar
said.

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