Apple hangs on as consumer spending dips

Survey shows spending plans stable for Apple, but down for Dell

Apple's share of US consumers' planned spending on home entertainment products and computers remained stable during the last month, even as rivals such as Dell lost ground, a market research firm said Wednesday.

According to ChangeWave Research, 11 percent of US consumers said that they planned to shop at Apple's retail and online stores in the next 90 days, the same number that pegged Apple in a similar survey last month.

Meanwhile, just 4 percent of the 2,800 consumers polled last week by ChangeWave said that they planned to shop at Dell's online store in the next three months, down from December's 6 percent.

In November's ChangeWave survey, 9 percent of the people polled said they planned to shop at Apple for home entertainment and computer products in the coming quarter. That month, ChangeWave predicted that Apple would weather the downturn better than most of its competitors.

Overall, consumer electronics spending plans were off significantly from last month, but that's normal at this time of year, said Paul Carton, ChangeWave's research director. "There was a large fall-off in consumer electronic [buying plans]," said Carton Wednesday, "and it remains in the doldrums. But we see this fall-off every year after the holidays."

In fact, only a few outlets -- including Amazon.com, Staples and Target -- saw their numbers increase from December to January. Amazon's share of the places people said they will shop during the next 90 days, for example, climbed from 23 percent last month to 24 percent this month.

The bigger economic picture remains uncertain, Carton said, although he noted that the poll earlier this month revealed "signs of stabilization" in consumer spending. "The street is reacting today to the collapse of consumer spending in December," said Carton, referring to the government report released today that noted a 2.7 percent drop in retail sales last month. "But we [knew] we were going to have a horrible December."

Based on ChangeWave's polling, last month Carton said "a massive consumer spending breakdown" was in the wind and called the 90-day outlook the "worst on record" in the research company's history.

"Today is the reaction to the December numbers coming in," he said. "But we're seeing a different picture now."

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