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    Debit Cards Pass Credit as Most Popular Holiday Payment Method

    Survey claims sales will increase 4.5 percent this year to $219.9 billion.

    WASHINGTON -- According to the second installment of the NRF 2004 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Surve, conducted by BIGresearch, the use of debit/check cards is soaring, with 34.7 percent of shoppers planning to use debit or check cards as their primary form of payment during the winter holidays, up from 30.7 percent last year. The survey also found that fewer consumers will use credit cards to pay for merchandise this holiday season (29.5 percent vs. 30.1 percent in 2003). Dependence on cash (25.9 percent) and checks (9.9 percent) has also subsided this year.

    "Consumers have been budgeting and planning ahead for the holiday season, so it's no surprise that credit will take a backseat to debit cards this year," said NRF president and CEO Tracy Mullin. "With debit cards, consumers can keep a handle on the money they have to spend without worrying about carrying cash."

    Shoppers will be heading to the stores for a variety of merchandise this holiday season. According to the survey, consumers plan to purchase books, CDs, DVDs, videos and video games (60.1 percent), clothing and clothing accessories (59.5 percent) and gift cards (51.8 percent) this holiday season. Also, 43.3 percent of consumers will purchase toys.

    Though many consumers started their holiday shopping earlier than ever this year, most of them still have far to go on their gift lists. As of Nov. 12, the average person had completed 24.4 percent of their shopping. Although 68 percent of consumers have completed less than 10 percent of their list, some shoppers are ahead of the game. According to the survey, one in 20 consumers is more than 75 percent finished with holiday shopping.

    "Consumers had the best of intentions to get a head start on shopping this year, but the holiday season has snuck up on shoppers once again," said Phil Rist, vice president of strategy at BIGresearch. "The weekend after Thanksgiving will be extremely important for retailers this year, so shoppers will be greeted with great sales and discounts when the doors open on Black Friday."

    NRF continues to project that holiday sales will increase 4.5 percent this year to $219.9 billion.

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