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NRF: Shoppers not as far along as last year

Washington - Fewer shoppers have completed their holiday buying compared to this time last year - and most of the procrastinators plan to shop online to catch up, said the National Retail Federation.

According to NRF's 2011 Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, which is conducted by BigResearch, the average person had completed 46.5% of her shopping as of the second week in December - less than the 49.5% in the same period a year ago.

According to the survey, nearly 37 million people (16.5%) had not even started their shopping as of late last week, while 7.6% said they have completely finished shopping already. The survey also found the average 25-34 year-old has finished about 50.2% - the most of any age group.

Planning to take advantage of retailers' extended - and often free - shipping offers, nearly half (45.5%) of those polled will do the remainder of their shopping online, "the highest percent in the survey's nine-year history and up from 37.6% last year," NRF noted.

More people will also flock to their favorite department store (44.0% vs. 38.4% last year) and electronics store (23.0% vs. 19.4% in 2010). Discount stores (35.9%), grocery stores (12.5%), specialty stores (10.7%) and even outlets (12.5%) will also see their share of increased holiday traffic in the coming days.

Continuing to grow in popularity for both gift givers and gift recipients, 31.4% of shoppers said they have already bought gift cards/gift certificates this holiday season, up from 29.9% last year.

Purchases of discretionary gifts continue to rise this holiday season compared to last year, NRF added. Top gift categories include: apparel (44.2% vs. 43.9% in 2010), electronics (23.8% vs. 21.3%), toys (36.3% vs. 35.3%), jewelry (15.9% vs. 14.1%) and personal care items (17.1% vs. 16.3%).

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