More consumers to spend less on holiday

CHICAGO (Reuters) - A growing number of consumers say they plan to spend less on gifts this holiday season than last year, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll, the latest sign of a potentially bleak Christmas for retailers.

A total of 38.8 percent of those surveyed said they would spend a little less or a lot less this year, up from 31.1 percent a month ago, according to the poll.

“You still have a significant number of people who are talking about the ‘R’ word, recession,” said John Zogby, president and chief executive of Zogby International, which conducted the poll for Reuters.

“Secondly, in addition to seeing oil prices hover around the $100 mark, consumers are actually seeing it at the pump,” he said.

Only 10.7 percent said they would spend a little or a lot more than last year, down from 18.3 percent a month ago, and 49.3 percent of the 1,009 responders said they would spend the same.

The results come amid soaring oil prices and continued concerns about the U.S. housing downturn and fears that the U.S. economy might be heading toward a recession.

Zogby also said there has been a growing trend in the past two to three years of consumers getting a little “fed up” with the excesses of the holidays and trying to rein in spending for that reason.

African-Americans and Hispanics are the most likely to cut back, the poll said.

Hispanics were most likely, at 56.9 percent, to say they would spend a little or a lot less, while 50.4 percent of African-Americans said they would spend a little or a lot less. Only 35.8 percent of whites said they would spend a little or a lot less.

Zogby said the ethnic breakdown is not surprising.

“You have an over-representation of percentages of blacks and Hispanics who fall in modest- and low-income groupings,” Zogby said.

Separately, Wal-Mart Stores Inc shoppers are more likely to cut back than those who do not shop at the discount retailer.

For those who shop at Wal-Mart weekly, 38.3 percent said they would spend less on the holiday. Of those that shop there a few times a month, 44.2 percent said they would spend less for the holiday.

Of those who never shop at Wal-Mart, 30.9 percent said they would spend less on the holiday.

The poll was conducted November 14 through November 17 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Reporting by Brad Dorfman; Editing by Brian Moss