Stores Ready, But Holiday Shoppers Will Wait

Holiday Shopper at Walmart
Ed Betz

U.S. retailers are touting holiday deals and discounts earlier than ever this year, but the efforts may fall flat as consumers expect to start shopping for this crucial season later than ever, according to a survey released Tuesday by NPD Group.

Forty-one percent of survey respondents said they do not expect to begin their holiday shopping until after Thanksgiving -- 10 percent more than a year ago.

"Retailers are looking to start the season earlier but consumers just aren't ready," said NPD Chief Industry Expert Marshal Cohen in a statement.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, typically marks the launch of the ultra-competitive holiday shopping season. But many retailers have already introduced early holiday deals and started clogging mailboxes with gift guides, worried about the state of consumer spending headed into the end of the year.

Wal-Martbegan cutting prices on hot toys Sept. 30, while on Sept. 28, L.L. Bean began offering free shipping and handling to all customers through Dec. 21.

Home furnishing retailer , a unit of Williams-Sonoma, sent an e-mail on Sept. 28 inviting recipients to "be the first to shop our new holiday collections."

But the early efforts may not be enough to get shoppers into holiday shopping mode.

"The hesitation comes in because there isn't that one, must-have item, coupled with the fact that consumers are conditioned to expect deeper discounts as it gets later in the season ... where's the incentive to shop early?" Cohen said.

The survey was conducted between Sept. 10 and Sept. 17, and was based on information from 1,943 completed interviews.