By  on October 29, 2007

When Mervyns shoppers move up to Macy's and Chanel shoppers slip into Costco, it's called crossover shopping. But what's been one of the big trends of the decade now shows signs of slowing, according to a survey of 1,943 people across a spectrum of ages and income brackets conducted by The NPD Group from Sept. 10 to 17. The annual survey, called Consumers' Holiday Purchase Intentions, suggests consumers won't be very "aspirational" in their shopping pattern this holiday and will largely stick to their primary destinations.

"People are much more comfortable shopping in their environment. There is an absence of special things driving the consumer," said Marshal Cohen, chief analyst at the NPD research firm. "Holiday is going to come. We'll see some marginal [sales] growth, around the 3 percent growth rate."

The survey showed that 60 percent of American consumers chose discounters, such as Wal-Mart and Target, as their primary shopping destination; 37 percent will first visit national chains; 36 percent will go online, and 27 percent will go to department stores first. Respondents had a choice of more than one channel.

Cohen said results from the survey suggest less impulse purchasing, and fewer people aspiring upward to more expensive stores. "It's not about status jeans or status bags so much as last year." He said this holiday will be more about going back to basics and that price will be most advantageous in drawing consumers. Impulse purchases in years past accounted for 26 percent of holiday sales, but it slipped to 19 percent last year, and this year Cohen projects 17 percent. Gift cards continue to grow in popularity and contribute to the decline of impulse shopping.

The survey also indicates consumers will start their holiday shopping later than ever this year, and visit an average of 3.7 stores, versus 4.5 stores last year. Forty-one percent don't anticipate holiday shopping until after Thanksgiving — 10 percent more than last year's survey. "I spotted the first holiday setup in a store on Aug. 18 this year...that's nearly a month earlier than last year. Retailers are looking to start the season earlier but consumers just aren't ready," said Cohen.

However, only 5 percent of consumers will spend less this holiday, and generally have the same number of people on their gift lists and have budgeted about the same, Cohen said.

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