March 31, 2008, 12:00 AM

Amid gloomy economic forecasts consumers seek deals online and off

54% of U.S. online consumers surveyed last month say they would decrease discretionary spending in a recession and 43% say they would only buy nonessential items at a discount or on sale, according to a recent survey.

If a recession hits, 54% of U.S. online consumers say they would decrease discretionary spending and 43% say they would only buy nonessential items at a discount or on sale, according to a Harris Interactive survey last month for online coupon site RetailMeNot.

56% say they look for discounts and coupons online, the same percentage as seek out deals in store, but more than look for bargains in direct mail pieces and catalogs (46%), discount books (38%), outlet malls (24%) or television (18%). 37% say they would use coupons and discount codes more often during a recession, including 43% of women and 31% of men.

52% say they have used coupons or discount codes online, including 64% of the college graduates surveyed and 61% of those with household incomes above $75,000.

27% say that when they are online they are “actively involved in sharing insights, tips and/or reviews with other users.” This group skewed toward lower-income consumers, with 30% agreement from those with incomes below $35,000, 32% of those with income between $35,000 and $49,900, 26% of those in the $50,000 to $74,900 range and 25% of those above $75,000. Parents are more likely to be social shoppers, the survey suggests, with 34% agreement with this statement among adults in households with children, compared with 24% of those with no children at home.

Harris Interactive surveyed 2,471 adults Feb. 13-15.

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