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Poll: Consumers Spending Rebate Checks On Necessities

5/13/2008 04:07:00 PM Eastern

Washington — Consumers plan to spend more of their rebate checks on necessities like gas and food than on discretionary items like CE and apparel.

That’s the finding of a recent survey of 8,347 consumers conducted by BIGresearch for the National Retail Federation (NRF).

According to the poll, taken April 29-May 7, consumers plan to spend nearly 40 percent of their federal stimulus checks, with an estimated 17.2 million using some of the funds to pay for gasoline and 21.2 million using a portion to pay for groceries.

Only 3.1 percent of respondents plan to spend their rebates on consumer electronics, down 12.6 percent from the prior month's poll, and 1.2 percent will allocate it to major appliances, down 2 percent from February.

Of the $105.7 billion being distributed in total, consumers will use about $28.1 billion to pay down debt, sock $20 billion away as savings, invest $3.4 billion and allot $4.9 billion to pay off medical bills.

“The rising cost of groceries and gasoline means that discretionary spending is taking a backseat to necessities,” said NRF CEO Tracy Mullin.

BIGresearch strategy VP Phil Rist noted, “Many retailers have already announced creative promotions to give consumers an extra incentive to shop with them. Some … are helping customers stretch the value of their rebate check further by tacking on an additional 10 percent to gift cards purchased or holding special in-store promotions.”

According to the survey, women are more likely to spend and/or save portions of their rebate checks, while men are more likely to use the funds to pay down debt.

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