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Holiday Shoppers Procrastinate, But Retail Outlook Still Positive


Holiday shoppers are procrastinating, but retailers aren’t panicking and offering bigger discounts to lure people in.

Exclusive Survey Results

More than half of shoppers haven't completed their gift purchases, according to the latest CNBC Holiday Central Survey. About 55% have completed some shopping, very little or none at all. Men under 50, unmarried people and white-collar workers are the farthest behind.

"The calendar in general is favoring the procrastinator this year," Patrick McKeever, senior equity analyst with Avondale Partners, told CNBC's "Morning Call." "There are five full weekends of holiday shopping between Thanksgiving and Christmas and last year there were four and a half. And Christmas falls on a Monday, so the procrastinator can afford to wait."

The less-than-frenzied pace thus far into the shopping season hasn't dampened the outlook for overall holiday sales, nor has it scared retailers into slashing prices.

"Business as Usual"

"There is really no promotional acceleration at this point," Jeff Klinefelter, retail analyst with Piper Jaffray, told CNBC's "Morning Call." "It seems like its business as usual for now, but that can change any day."

Regardless, some retailers will outshine the rest of the pack.

"I am optimistic overall," McKeever told CNBC. "I am a little concerned about the low end, the deep discount store retailers. But, all in all, I think we'll have a very good holiday shopping season."

The discounters should log same store sales of 1% to 3% this season, with Wal-Mart   sales coming in flat to slightly higher, McKeever added. "Low-end consumers, or those who are more concerned about fluctuations in gas prices, just haven’t really bought into the idea that gas prices have come down permanently," McKeever said on CNBC. "That is a big issue facing lower income consumers."

McKeever believes the luxury retailers will be big winners, including Coach , Tiffany , Nordstrom and Saks .

Klinefelter expects Target to "put up very strong" same store sales again for December. He believes they're benefiting from their average customer having a slightly higher income level, but also believes they could be helped by Wal-Mart's struggles.

He also expects teen retailers to do very well, including American Eagle Outfitters .

Spending Plans Shrink

Plans for overall spending have dropped to an average $735 from $764 in late November, when the first CNBC Holiday Central Survey was taken. However, the percentage of people saying they'll spend more this year than last grew to 26% from 20% in the past two weeks.

Still, shopping certainly is picking up. In the weekend after Thanksgiving, just 23% had completed most or all of their shopping. As of today, 45% have done so.

The gap between men and women's spending plans has grown too. In late November, men, on average, planned to spend about $41 more than women, the CNBC poll found. That gap has grown to $76 in this survey.  Men over 50 and married men, in particular, have higher planned spending levels.

There are still very large spending gaps based on consumers' income.

Shoppers aren't seeing a major increase in discounts either. Fewer than one in three say there are more sales and discounts this year than last year.  This changes radically by consumers' age; showing a keen eye for a deal, 53% of seniors say there are more sales and discounts this year.