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More shoppers waiting until Christmas Eve: Study

A shopper at a Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, New Jersey.
Lucas Jackson | Reuters
A shopper at a Wal-Mart store in Secaucus, New Jersey.

More than a month into the holiday shopping season with no signs of a pullback in discounts in sight, a growing number of consumers is asking one key question: What's the rush?

A new study by America's Research Group, released Monday, found that of the 75 percent of consumers who are not yet finished with their holiday shopping, nearly half will wait until Christmas Eve to wrap up their purchases — a 12-year high.

The findings come as consumers are "no longer feeling this rush of urgency" to stock up on gifts before they sell out, thanks to elevated inventory levels, said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist for the Consumer Technology Association.

What's more, as retailers continue to slash prices to move through their inventory, shoppers are confident they'll be able to score deals even as the clock counts down.

"December is going to become a more important period for holiday shopping," DuBravac said.

Despite retailers' stretching their discounts earlier into the season, holiday spending has gotten off to a slow start. According to ShopperTrak intelligence firm, in-store sales fell 10.4 percent over Black Friday weekend, to $20.43 billion.

Online sales growth continues to outpace that at physical stores, largely because digital revenues account for a small fraction of total retail sales. According to the Adobe Digital Index, which released its latest figures Monday afternoon, online sales from Nov. 1 through Dec. 6 were up 9.26 percent, to $48.7 billion. That is below the firm's forecast that digital sales will rise 11 percent in November and December, to $83 billion.

Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, said deal "fever" continues to rise, with many consumers saying they will wait until the end of the season in anticipation of 60 percent off deals. His firm's results were based off interviews with 1,000 consumers from Dec. 4-6.

"The next [shopping] wave will come when online retailers offer free shipping and brick and mortar stores offer 60 percent and 70 percent off with the same deals available online," Beemer said.

The National Retail Federation has said that it expects holiday sales to increase 3.7 percent.