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    Britt Beemer's Bleak Christmas 2009 Forecast: Retail Sales Down Again to 2.9%.
    Even Children Will Feel the Pinch, Beemer Says

    Charleston, SC, Nov. 5, 2009.... American retailers hoping for some respite from last year's steep drop in sales during the crucial holiday shopping season will find no cheer this Christmas, according to the results of a Christmas shopping survey released today by America's Research Group (ARG) and UBS.

    "Our annual Christmas shopping survey reveals that American consumers are under so much more financial pressure this year that even children will feel the pinch," says consumer trend expert C. Britt Beemer, CEO and Founder of ARG. Beemer predicts that retail sales will be negative 2.5% to 4.5% with the final figure down 2.9% compared to 2.7% down last year. Beemer's predictions have been accurate within a half of 1% over the past 17 of 18 holiday seasons.

    Consumers will direct their Yuletide energies to getting bigger bargains and cutting down on the numbers of gifts they give. More parents will do without gifts this year so kids will have their gifts. An indication that children feel the pinch is that fewer have asked for a specific toy this year. As a result of the rush for bargains, Beemer says that "long lines will drive shoppers wild."

    Based on the holiday survey results, Beemer noted the following warning signs of a bleak Christmas for retailers and for consumers alike:

    • More consumers feel pressure from debt – up to 32.1% this year from 29.6% in 2008. Over half of them (51.5%) will spend less this year compared with 40.1% spending less last year.

    • Consumers are looking for even bigger bargains this year – at least 50% and 60% off. As a result, there will be a surge of Black Friday shopping, up to 37.2% from 33.5% in 2008, but not at the malls. Mall traffic will be down with 42.8% shopping there less because most consumers (56.1%) believe other stores will be cheaper, up from 44.3% in 2008.

    • Families will buy for fewer people this Christmas. Almost a third (31.8%), up sharply from the 2008 percentage of 22.1%,say that number is six to eight people. Furthermore, more gifts will be small this year say 35.7% of consumers(up from 27.4% last year). Over half of parents (50.3%) are cutting back on gifts to each other again this year compared with 44.4% last year.

    • More families with children feel their kids are feeling the family's financial pressure and are accepting it – 40.7% this year compared with 25.7% last year. Over half (50.3%) say their children have not asked for a specific toy.

    • Consumers will be influenced by advertising more than ever before. 45.3% said they will be very much influenced this year compared to 39.6% in 2008 and 40.5% in 2007. 55.6% say they will look at newspaper inserts, up from 50.8% in 2008.

    • Shopping won't be so much fun this year as consumers battle crowds and retailers use minimum numbers of salespeople. Showing little patience, 41.3% of consumers, compared with 21.0% last year, say they will leave stores that are short-handed or have long lines at the cash register.

    • The top three gifts this year will be toys (28.8%), electronics (26.0%) and children’s clothes (16.0%). The top toys again this year are video games (28.2%), bicycles (21.0%), remote control toys (15.8%) and Barbie (15.4%).

    • Gifts in the price range of $26 to $35 are up to 26.5% from 21.9% in 2008. Gifts over $50 are down to 14.2% from 19.2% last year.
    The ARG/UBS research consisted of 1,000 telephone interviews conducted November 1 to 3, 2009at ARG headquarters in Charleston, SC. The error factor is plus or minus 3.8%. The next ARG/UBS shopping survey will be conducted following Black Friday. The surveys will continue every week through the shopping season.

    America's Research Group, one of the nation's foremost consumer research and strategic marketing firms, marks its 30th anniversary in 2009. CEO Britt Beemer is a key resource and advisor to leading brands and top retailers. He is author of The Customer Rules, 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.