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Wal-Mart Dominates Christmas Shopping

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C. Britt Beemer, CEO and Founder of America’s Research Group (ARG) raised his annual Christmas retail forecast today to minus 2.8% from minus 3.5% based on Wal-Mart’s extraordinary domination of Christmas shopping this season, according to data from the fifth America’s Research Group/UBS Christmas 2008 Survey. Almost two thirds (66.2%) of American consumers shopped at Wal-Mart last week compared with 41.3% last year. “Wal-Mart had as many shoppers this weekend as JCPenney, Sears, Target and Toys R Us combined,” Beemer said. “The unheard of domination of the retail industry this Christmas coupled with the fact that consumers are seeing and taking advantage of 60%- to 70%-off sales leads me to raise my forecast,” he added. Of those consumers who shopped this past weekend, most flocked to Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart 66.2% (41.3% in 2007) JCPenney 18.1% (18.0% in 2007) Sears 19.6% (18.2% in 2007) Target 17.9% (13.6% in 2007) Toys R Us 12.1% (9.5% in 2007) Best Buy 10.4% (12.9% in 2007) In the list of top five gifts, children’s clothes had a substantial increase (23.7% in 2008 from 14.5% in 2007) as parents made up for not buying much in the back-to-school shopping period this year. Gift cards decreased to 12.4% this year from 19.4% in 2007. Toys 33.8% (34.2% in 2007) Children’s Clothes 23.7% (14.5% in 2007) Electronics 23.7% (25.6% in 2007) Video Games 18.9% (17.4% in 2007) Gift Cards 12.4% (19.4% in 2007) A “home-run” toy has emerged this year with 32.2% of those purchasing gifts for boys buying a Bukugan toy. Consumers remain extremely conservative. this Christmas. More shoppers will stay within their budget (71.1%, the highest percentage since 2002 at 72.6%). In addition, 36.7% of shoppers say they are spending less this year, the highest number in seven years, the first time the question was asked in ARG Christmas surveys. Compared with past Christmases, more consumers say that they have finished Christmas shopping (27.5%). More consumers also expect to finish next weekend compared to previous years – 43.3% in 2008 compared to 33.9% in 2007. Parents are on-track with 44.5% saying they have finished shopping for their children compared to 44.8% last year. Still 40.9% of consumers are waiting for more 50%-off sales to finish their Christmas shopping and another 36.6% say they are waiting for bigger bargains yet at 60%-off sales. On a positive note, fewer shoppers said that had to “wait in line” or “got no help” with only 11.9% unhappy about the service they received. This is the lowest number in the six years since the question was asked in ARG Christmas surveys. Shopping levels over last weekend were equal to last year -- 48.0% in 2008 compared to 48.8% last year: 10.6% shopped only during the week, 21.8% shopped only during the weekend and 23.6% shopped both during the week and on the weekend. The America’s Research Group/UBS 2008 Christmas Survey consisted of 1,002 telephone interviews conducted Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14, 2008 at ARG headquarters in Charleston, SC. The error factor is plus or minus 3.8%. UBS has teamed with ARG for six surveys this Christmas season. The sixth survey is scheduled next weekend. America’s Research Group is one of the nation’s foremost consumer research and strategic marketing firms. CEO Britt Beemer is a key resource and advisor to leading brands and top retailers. He is author of The Customer Rules, a new book published by McGraw-Hill. UBS Global Equity Research provides the broad global perspective and in-depth analysis that institutional investors need to make good investment decisions. With more than 600 analysts, associates, strategists and economists in EMEA, APAC and the Americas, UBS covers approximately 85% of the world market capitalization - over 3,300 companies worldwide across 46 different markets. In addition to UBS's disciplined fundamental research, clients also rely on UBS for corporate and expert access to give them the insight they need, when they need it.

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