By  on October 28, 2009

Holiday shoppers are in no rush to get the season under way, but when the spirit seizes them, about half will spend between $300 and $1,000 on presents, according to a new poll by Zogby International.

With Christmas decorations creeping into the stores and holiday ads and catalogues surfacing before Halloween in the past several years, 53 percent of those surveyed online from Friday through Monday agreed: “Christmas-holiday shopping should start after Thanksgiving and I do not like seeing decorations and hearing holiday music until then — when I’m ready to start shopping.”

Another three in 10 said they thought “stores overdo their efforts” to prompt holiday gift purchasing and wish they would “tone it down” and “not overwhelm the customers.”

“We may be at a tipping point to back off from the hype, to back off from the pressure,” said John Zogby, president and chief executive officer of Zogby International, which provided the 2009 holiday poll exclusively to WWD. “The pressure to buy, to keep up, to spend is getting to people. It may not make sense anymore to start Christmas in early October. It’s the smarter marketers who will change.”

While feeling overhyped, many would-be holiday shoppers were poised to spend several hundred dollars on presents. Roughly one-quarter of the 3,614 adults surveyed foresaw outlays of between $501 and $1,000, while about the same number said they intended to part with $301 to $500.

The Zogby findings are based on a representative sample of adults in the U.S., ages 18 to 70, randomly selected from the pollster’s online panel of 500,000 people.

The vast majority of these consumers — eight in 10 — signaled they would shop for holiday gifts, but 45 percent indicated they would spend less than in 2008. About the same number of people aimed to spend as much as they did last year. “The trend to spending less has been growing in the past two years,” Zogby noted.

Americans are clearly of a mind to spend within their means after years of running up steep credit card bills. More than two-thirds, or 69 percent, said they would pay for the “majority” of their holiday purchases with debit/check cards or cash. As a result, Zogby said, the “pressure” on personal finances will be “real time, versus pressure in January-February to pay off credit card bills.”

The public has been widely credited for upping savings during the recession — if at a rate of just 3 percent in August — but most are in no mood to compromise holiday purchasing simply to boost their bank accounts. Fifty-two percent said they would not clip seasonal budgets because they wanted to save more, while about one-third said they would save more by taking a bite out of the season’s purchases.

A majority of adults, six in 10, would prefer to do all of their holiday shopping on the Internet, rather than at the mall, if they had to choose either one locale or the other. Amazon.com leads the list of e-commerce sites they’re expecting to shop, followed by those of eBay, Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, L.L. Bean and J.C. Penney.

“The fact is, 83 percent of U.S. households have Internet access at home,” Zogby said, pointing out that’s significantly more than the 70-odd percent of homes with land-line phones, down from a peak of 96 percent around 10 years ago. “People without Internet access are less likely to be big shoppers.”

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