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Affluent to Drive 2011 Holiday Shopping Season as Spending Slows for 80 Percent of Consumers

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  • Biggest winners include makers/retailers of gift cards, value products, technology and vacations
  • Almost 20 percent of consumers already holiday shopping

Schaumburg, Ill., September 22, 2011 – Online, club, dollar, toy and consumer electronics retailers, as well as categories such as gift cards, technology, vacations and toys, will all perform well this season, according to Nielsen’s fourth-annual Holiday Shopping Sales Survey. Nielsen is the leading global provider of information and analytics about what consumers buy and watch.

Across all income levels, only five percent of U.S. households plan to spend more this year, with affluent households (those earning $100,000 or more) leading the way.  Among households earning $100,000 or more, consumers ranked online merchants, club stores and dollar stores as the top three channels where they plan to spend more this shopping season. Among households making $50,000 or less, consumers plan to increase their spending at dollar stores, online merchants and supercenters. 

“Nielsen expects the vast majority of consumers to be increasingly practical and focused on value this season,” said James Russo, vice president, global consumer insights, Nielsen.  “More affluent consumers will drive spending, particularly in entertainment, vacations, toys and technology.”

Recent findings from Nielsen’s Consumer Confidence Index revealed consumer sentiment is near recession lows, with one out of every three respondents reporting they’ll have no spare cash going into the holiday season. Roughly 52 percent of Nielsen Holiday Survey respondents reported plans to spend $500 or less. At the other end of the spectrum, affluent households reported plans for modest spending increases in stores as well as for out-of-home and in-home entertaining.

“This is a year to market early.  Consumers are planning, creating lists and collecting coupons. In fact, coupon use continues to grow each year with almost 40 percent of consumers reporting plans to use coupons, versus a little more than 20 percent before the recession,” Russo added. “Given all that planning, it is not surprising that close to 20 percent of consumers have already started their holiday shopping.”

Other survey findings include:

  • 62 percent of consumers plan to use shopping lists
  • 46 percent of respondents report plans to eat out less
  • 40 percent plan to stay at home more
  • 37 percent plan to use coupons –15 percent higher than pre-recession polling
  • 31 percent plan to buy value brands

About the Nielsen Holiday Shopping Sales Survey

Nielsen’s Holiday Shopping Survey is the one of the most comprehensive holiday research analyses available, based on online survey responses from nearly 25,000 U.S. households and both demographically and geographically representative of the total U.S. population. Nielsen’s analysis includes review of more than 250 product categories sold in food, drug and mass merchandiser stores. In addition, Nielsen conducts weekly surveys of 250 consumers to gauge the holiday season and measure the critical weeks of Black Friday and the final week of December, historically the most important week for retail sales.

About Nielsen

Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and related properties. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit