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Concerns about the economy and rising gasoline prices may send more shoppers to the web. They cite the convenience and savings on gas in a recent survey by the investment firm of Piper Jaffray. However, consumers also indicated they may reduce online spending on high ticket and discretionary goods.
A third of online shoppers surveyed plan to reduce web spending on discretionary goods, while 12 percent expect to spend more, and 55 percent don't anticipate a change in their online shopping behavior. High ticket items are most likely to be affected, since 33.3 percent plan to spend less on jewelry and watches, and 31.8 percent plan to spend less on computers and accessories.
Nearly as many (31.3 percent) said they would spend less on other consumer electronics. And 29.8 percent expected to spend less on home furnishings.
21 percent of respondents say a recession or weaker economy would lead them to shop online more. Among those, 68 percent cite convenience: 64 percent indicate saving money on gas, and 48 percent say they seek the opportunity to find lower prices.
Nearly a third say they plan to do more comparison shopping online this year.
Consumer confidence is low, the survey found, with 36 percent of the survey participants saying they are worse off financially today than a year ago. Yet, 23 percent say they are better off, and 41 percent say they are the same. Respondents are optimistic about the future, with 38 percent expecting to be better off financially a year from now.
The study suggests that the U.S. government's tax rebates are not likely to provide retailers with a major boost. More than a third say they are most likely to use the checks to pay off debt; 44 percent plan to save the money, and just 31 percent say they will make purchases. The percentages total more than 100 percent because consumers can do more than one thing with the money.
"We believe this is an indication that most consumers will either save their rebate checks for a rainy day or pay off current debt," said Piper Jaffray analyst, Aaron M. Kessler, principal author of the report entitled, "PJC eCommerce and Consumer Sentiment Survey Indicates Soft Spending Outlook."
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