Consumers Say Thanksgiving Spending to Match Last Year Levels, Travel Plans Likely to Scale Back

Wed Oct 14, 2009 6:30am EDT

* Reuters is not responsible for the content in this press release.

American Express Spending & Saving Tracker Assesses Shifts in Consumers` Holiday
Spending
NEW YORK--(Business Wire)--
With the holiday season almost upon us, a new survey from American Express
(NYSE: AXP) reports that 30 percent of U.S. consumers plan to adjust this year`s
travel plans for Thanksgiving - historically one of the busiest travel days of
the year - but only 21 percent expect those expenses to decrease compared to
last year. 

Today`s American Express Spending & Saving Trackeris the second in a monthly
series of reports about consumers` views on the economy and what is motivating
them to spend and save. The research sample of 2,009 adults included the general
U.S. population1, as well as two sub-groups - the affluent2 and young
professionals3. 

Respondents whose plans are changing said they`ll rely more on automobile
travel, stay for a shorter time and cash-in rewards to help pay for holiday
trips. The most significant changes are from the young professionals - 37
percent said they`ve adjusted their plans versus the affluent and general
population (both 30 percent).

* Nineteen percent of the general population who travelled last year will be
staying home in 2009. 
* More than one in ten (11 percent) young professionals indicated they intend to
drive as opposed to fly, compared to 7 percent of the general population and 6
percent of the affluent. 
* Eight percent of young professionals intend to stay fewer days for the
Thanksgiving holiday weekend, compared to the affluent and general population
(both three percent). 
* Seven percent of the young professionals are using rewards points, miles and
special offers to off-set the cost, versus four percent of the affluent and
three percent of the general population.

A Reason This Season

The American Express Spending & Saving Trackerindicates that consumers have not
measurably changed their overall outlook on spending compared to last month but
they are starting to open their wallets for the holiday season. Against the
backdrop of high unemployment and a soft housing market, however, they expect to
be more selective.

* As one might expect, consumers said they plan to spend significantly more over
the next 30 days on travel, compared to last month (41 percent versus 33
percent). 
* Nearly eight in ten of the affluent expect to spend more, or about the same,
over the next 30 days on dining out (78 percent). 
* Compared to last month, consumers expect to decrease spending in groceries (49
percent versus 40 percent), grooming (23 percent versus 16 percent) and tuition
(19 percent versus five percent).

"These results show that consumers do plan to open their wallets this holiday
season, starting with Thanksgiving travel, but many are re-prioritizing those
expenses," said Pamela Codispoti, American Express Senior Vice President and
General Manager, Cardmember Services. "We expect a shift in what people are
spending their money on, with our respondents showing that spending on dining
and travel are very important to them during this holiday season." 

The Giving Season

As the holiday season nears, more consumers are turning their attention to
holiday shopping. The survey found that 80 percent of consumers intend to make
end-of-year holiday gift purchases. In an encouraging sign, more than one in
five (22 percent) consumers intend to do so in October, nearly 30 percent said
they would wait until November and 28 percent expect to wait until December to
shop. Significantly more women plan to make holiday purchases in October than
their male counterparts (28 percent versus 16 percent). 

The American Express Spending & Saving Trackerasked consumers whether a discount
- and what specific discount percentage - would motivate them to begin their
holiday shopping in the next 30 days.

* Eighty-two percent of respondents said they could be enticed by some sort of
retail discount, with virtually all young professionals and affluent agreeing
(96 percent and 94 percent respectively). 
* Young professionals seemed easier to motivate, saying they would be willing to
begin spending with discounts as low as 10 percent. By contrast, the affluent
said it would take a discount of nearly 30 percent, on average, to open their
wallets. 
* Almost one in five (18 percent) of consumers could not be motivated by a
discount and of that group more than half (58 percent) said they are on a strict
budget; 43 percent indicated it is just too early to start holiday shopping.

Tricks and Treats

Halloween is now viewed by many as the unofficial start of the holiday season,
as it`s a celebration that has grown in popularity among both adults and
children. According to the National Retail Federation, in 2008 U.S. consumers
spent $5.8 billion4 on Halloween activities. The American Express Spending &
Saving Tracker found that 33 percent of consumers are shifting their Halloween
plans compared to last year, and some, especially the young professionals are
getting creative in order to save money.

* Of young professionals, 36 percent are purchasing less expensive costumes and
decorations compared to 16 percent of the affluent and 15 percent of the general
population. 
* Twenty-six percent of young professionals are making their own costume or
using hand-me-downs compared to 13 percent of the affluent and 11 percent of the
general population.

The American Express Spending & Saving Trackerresearch was completed online
among a random sample of consumers aged 18+. The research sample of 2,009 adults
surveyed the general U.S. population, as well as two sub-groups - the affluent
and young professionals. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research September
24-29, 2009. Overall, the results have a margin of error of +/- 2.2 (or 4.2
among affluent and 4.4 among young professionals) percentage points at the 95
percent level of confidence. For access to previous American Express Spending &
Saving Tracker results, please visit www.americanexpress.com/aboutus. 

About American Express

American Express Company (www.americanexpress.com) is a leading global payments,
network and travel company founded in 1850. 

1 The research was conducted online September 24 - 29, 2009 among a random
sample of 2,009 adults aged 18 and older. 

2Affluent - defined as having a minimum annual household income of $100,000. 

3Young Professional - defined as less than 30 years of age, having a college
degree, and a minimum annual household income of $50,000. 

4 National Retail Federation, NRF 2009 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions
Survey, September 29, 2009.

American Express
Desiree Fish, 212-640-4761
desiree.c.fish@aexp.com
or
Burson-Marsteller
Lisa Gordon-Miller, 212-614-4684
lisa.gordon-miller@bm.com

Copyright Business Wire 2009

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