Byline: Carol Emert

WASHINGTON — Consumers are hot to shop, and apparel seems to be the big beneficiary.
According to a poll conducted by the Gallup Organization for the International Mass Retail Association, apparel topped the list of gifts consumers said they are planning to buy more of this Christmas. Discount department stores are the preferred shopping venue, the survey said.
Apparel is the only product category shoppers are likely to spend more money on this year than last year, according to the poll, which was released at a press conference Thursday at IMRA headquarters here.
Thirty percent of the 1,000 consumers surveyed said they expect to spend more on apparel this Christmas than last, while 14 percent said they would spend less.
An 8 percent increase was seen in overall spending plans for the Yule, with the average expenditure per household expected to reach $734. In 1993, it was $680, according to the poll.
The number of consumers who anticipate spending more money than last year totaled 17 percent, the same as in the 1993 survey. The number of consumers who said they will spend less at Christmastime than last year fell to 25 percent from 30 percent in 1993.
Those who said they will spend about the same amount rose to 57 percent this year from 53 percent in 1993.
Janet Mangano, a retail analyst with Burnham Securities, said demand for apparel is growing because prices are low. “Consumers are finding they’re getting a lot of value for their money in apparel,” she said.
Discounters such as Wal-Mart and Target will be the primary destination for holiday shoppers, with 76 percent of those interviewed saying they plan to do at least part of their shopping at such stores.
Conventional department stores followed, with 57 percent of the vote. Forty-four percent of consumers surveyed said they would shop at specialty stores, 34 percent said they would visit category-dominant stores and 25 percent said they would use catalogs or other non-store retailers.
“I think [discounters] are going to be the big winners” this Christmas, said Bob Verdisco, IMRA president. “Our segment of the industry is poised to have a very good season.”
He forecast that retail sales would be boosted even further by the Republican sweep of this week’s elections “because people feel better.”
The survey data was gathered in October, before the election, he noted.
— Fairchild News Service

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