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Consumers still have more than half their holiday shopping to do, survey says

December 16, 2009 |  2:40 pm

Christmas is right around the corner, but your gift might still be sitting at the mall.

In a survey released Wednesday, the National Retail Federation said the average person had completed just 46.7% of their holiday shopping by the second week of December.

That’s slightly less than the 47.1% completed by this time last year, according to the retail trade group, and the lowest percentage since 2004, when the average person had completed 46.3% of their shopping by the same point.

Nearly 42 million people (19.1%) had not even started their shopping as of late last week, while 8.6% of shoppers had completely finished.

The results are somewhat surprising given retailers’ claims this season that good merchandise would sell out quickly because of lower inventory levels.

Now, with just over a week left until Christmas, procrastinators could actually find some great deals, said Tracy Mullin, president of the retail federation.

“Retailers know the final lap counts the most and are planning to emphasize promotions and discounts to bring in last-minute shoppers,” she said. “As Christmas Day creeps closer, retailers will be ready for an influx of procrastinators, from those who are checking the final names off their list to millions who haven’t even started shopping.”

With many people shopping for bargains and convenience, discount stores and department stores can expect to see the most traffic in the coming days, the retail group said. More than a third of respondents (38%) said they would shop online.

The survey, which polled 9,929 consumers from Dec. 1-9, also found that fewer people have used credit cards as their preferred payment method this year. Popular shopping categories included apparel, books, CDs, DVDs, toys and gift cards.

The trade group also said Wednesday that it continued to forecast that holiday sales would decline 1% over last year.

-- Andrea Chang

Photo: Shoppers make their way through the Glendale Galleria. Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times