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NEW YORK CITY-To the chagrin of shopping-center owners, many consumers are staying at home and buying gifts on the Internet instead of making their purchases at stores this year, according to a report. One out of every three households with a computer will shop more online due to high energy prices, says a survey of 10,000 conducted by the locally based research organizations the Conference Board and TNS.

The survey also finds that more than half of all household will make fewer trips to malls this year, and one-third will cut back spending. Worse yet for landlords, “if energy prices recede, there is no guarantee these consumers will return to the malls. They may very well continue to point, click and ship instead,” says Lynn Franco, director of the Conference’s Board’s research center, in a statement.

Among consumers that make under $35,000, 53% say they will make fewer trips to stores, while 27% are reducing the number of people on their shopping lists. In households that make more than $75,000 annually, about 60% say they will do more shopping on the Internet.

Of those shopping in the Internet, more than half plan to spend less than $250, 31% intend to spend $250 to $499 and 18% will shell out $500 or more. In stores, 64% will spend less than $250 in stores, 24% will purchase between $250 and $499, while 13% will buy $500 or more.

Meanwhile, financial services firm Deloitte & Touch released a report that says holiday sales have gotten off to a good start. “In addition to early holiday promotional activity, we’re seeing a rebound from the short-term negative effects of Hurricane Katrina: unemployment is down, affected businesses are now operating again, and construction in the Southeast has begun,” says Carl Steidtmann, Deloitte’s chief economist of research, in a statement.

The report also says that retailers will be “well-served” by the increasing use of gift cards because they spur consumers to buy higher-margin products as well as lengthen the holiday season. However, it warns that retailers must reign in their promotional activity during the period.

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