Consumers Conservative on Holiday Shopping: Survey

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Though shoppers still plan to spend more on the holidays this year than last, they said their spending will be a bit restrained this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation's 2007 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch.

U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $816.69 on holiday-related shopping, the survey found. In addition, these shoppers will spend an additional $106.67 on special "non-gift" purchases by taking advantage of special promotions and discounts to treat themselves. This brings total planned holiday-related spending to $923.36, an increase of 3.7 percent from 2006, and in line with NRF's economic forecast of 4.0 percent.

"Shoppers will be a little more conservative with their spending as they become more aware of the softness in the economy," said NRF president and c.e.o. Tracy Mullin in a statement. "It is safe to say that many retailers will be competing on price, causing this holiday season to be very promotional -- a tremendous win for consumers."

While the traditional kickoff to the holiday season is Black Friday, most people won't wait to begin bargain hunting. This year, 40.3 percent of shoppers will begin holiday shopping before Halloween.

"Although the day after Thanksgiving remains the official kickoff for holiday shopping, consumers are out in the stores far earlier looking for holiday gifts," said Phil Rist, v.p. of strategy for BIGresearch. "Retailers that are promoting holiday merchandise are responding to the needs of their shoppers, who are already looking to purchase greeting cards, wrapping paper and a variety of gifts."

Though consumers plan to shop at a variety of stores this year, no particular format will see significant traffic gains from last year. About 45 percent of shoppers surveyed said they plan to shop at grocery stores (vs. 49.3 percent in 2006). Discounters can expect the most traffic, as 68.4 percent of consumers plan to shop there (compared to 70.3 percent in 2006). Department stores will also see a lion's share of traffic as 58.2 percent will choose this format (vs. 61.6 percent last year).

As expected, most holiday budgets will be allocated to gifts. The survey also found that most Americans plan to increase spending on flowers ($20.53 vs. $18.98 last year) and decorations ($49.76 vs. $46.49 last year). Consumers also plan to spend $94.69 on candy and food and $32.21 on greeting cards and postage.

There will be plenty of popular items on consumer wish lists this holiday season, but the most sought-after category appears to be the most practical: gift cards. This year, more than half (53.8 percent) of consumers want to receive a gift card or gift certificate as a holiday gift, though they won't be the only item on shoppers' wish lists. Consumers also want everything from clothing and accessories (50.1 percent) to books, CDs, DVDs, videos and video games (50.8 percent).

NRF said it continues to expect holiday sales to increase 4.0 percent to $474.5 billion.

The NRF 2007 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, which polled 7,837 consumers, was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch from October 2-9, 2007. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.
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