In hopes of getting a little extra padding in their wallets from Uncle Sam, most consumers are filing their taxes early this year. This represents an opportunity for retailers, eager to capture some of that additional disposable income.
Loosening it from consumers' wallets won't be easy, however. The retailers will be in competition with many consumers' plans to use the money to pay down debt, according to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) 2007 Tax Returns Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch.
According to the survey, 69.6 percent of consumers expect to receive a tax refund this year. And the Internet is helping them cash in early. Fully half said they will be logging onto their computers and filing their taxes online. In addition, one in three indicated they are using computer software to prepare their taxes.
The study found that nearly two thirds of consumers, 62.2 percent, filed their income taxes this past January and February, which puts them in line for an early refund. Just one in five, planned to file in March, and close to one in six consumers planned to wait until April to file their taxes.
"Many people look at their tax refunds as bonus bucks," says NRF president and chief executive officer, Tracy Mullin. "Retailers begin to offer special sales and promotions as early as May, knowing that it is hard for consumers to resist spending at least a small portion of their refunds."
Yet the study found that consumers are continuing to focus on minimizing debt. Nearly half, 43.1 percent, said that is what they would do with their refunds. More than one third, 38.6 percent, anticipated putting some of the money into savings, while one in four indicated they would put the money toward everyday expenses.
Some consumers are still remembering to have fun with the extra money from their returns. About one in ten people said they would dedicate a portion of their return to major purchases, while slightly more, 13.3 percent, cited spending on a vacation.
"Over the years we have seen consumers of all ages shift their focus to minimizing their debt and increasing their savings," says Phil Rist, vice president of strategy for BIGresearch. "People eagerly anticipate their tax refund because they know it is a significant chunk of change that can go towards paying off bills."
This puts extra pressure on retailers to come up with products and promotions that will put those added dollars into their cash registers.
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