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Exclusive: Many Americans already done with holiday shopping

A woman rests while shopping at South Park mall in Charlotte
A woman rests while shopping at South Park mall in Charlotte

By Dhanya Skariachan

(Reuters) - More than a third of U.S. shoppers are already done with most of their holiday shopping, a survey showed on Monday, signaling that retailers need to offer bigger incentives to win sales in the few weeks before Christmas.

The findings underscore the fragility of the U.S. recovery, since consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the nation's economy.

About 32 percent of people surveyed by America's Research Group said they finished a majority of their Christmas shopping in November. Last month included Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when stores pulled out all the stops on discounts to woo shoppers during their biggest season of the year.

More than 6 percent completed most of their holiday shopping in the first weekend of December.

The questions were asked exclusively for Reuters as part of a larger America's Research Group survey.

"There is very little retailers can do unless they really have some incredible sales that force that consumer to reconsider if they want ... to make an extra purchase now," said America's Research Group President Britt Beemer.

About 28 percent of people surveyed said they plan to take a break from shopping, now that the Black Friday weekend is behind them.

"Many, many consumers, when they got those early bird specials on Black Friday, decided that that was going to be the big purchase for their family," Beemer said, adding that many shoppers spent more than they planned on Black Friday.

Sales during the Black Friday weekend soared to $52.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation, which sees sales for the full season up 2.8 percent.

The survey also highlighted other grievances of the post-recession U.S. consumer.

More than 43 percent of those surveyed said they expect the debt crisis in Europe to hurt the United States, while about 36 percent of Americans said political gridlock in Washington as the biggest problem facing the U.S. economy right now.

About 27 percent worry about the rising cost of living, while about a quarter of those surveyed see unemployment as the key issue faced by the U.S. economy.

Many shoppers said that discount chains would be their destination of choice to do the rest of the holiday shopping, with nearly 38 percent of holiday shoppers planning to visit one, highlighting that shoppers remain highly price-sensitive.

"You have got to give them a deal that is incredible," Beemer said, suggesting retailers slash prices and offer deep discounts of 50 percent and 60 percent to lure shoppers this month.

Department stores offering unique merchandise also found many fans, with about 30 percent of shoppers planning to visit one during the rest of the season.

The telephone survey of 1,000 people was conducted from December 3-4, and has an error factor of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.

(Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Richard Chang)

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