NRF: Consumers’ holiday spending to rise slightly

Washington, D.C. Although the uncertain economy is still very much on their minds, Americans will increase holiday spending by approximately 1% this year as they shop less at discounters and focus more on quality and service, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2010 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey. While the slow economic recovery is still weighing on shoppers, the results offer “glimmers of hope” for the retail industry, NRF president Matthew Shay said, and suggest that consumers won’t only be focusing on low prices and basic necessities this year.

“Consumers will still shop with the economy in the back of their minds, but we are starting to see shoppers take steps toward a new normal,” Shay stated “As Americans open up their wallets for more discretionary gifts like jewelry or take advantage of sales to buy for themselves, retailers will begin to truly believe that the worst is behind them.”

U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $688.87 on holiday-related shopping, a slight rise from last year’s $681.83, the survey found. Nearly 62% of shoppers say the economy will impact their spending, down from last year’s 65.3%.

As in years past, most holiday gift-givers will spend the largest portion of their budget buying gifts for family ($393.55) and friends ($71.45), with much smaller sums spent on co-workers ($18.26) and others ($34.82). Total spending on gifts ($518.08) is expected to rise 2.1% from last year, which is in line with NRF’s 2010 holiday forecast.

As to the factor that will be most important when shopping this holiday season, the majority of shoppers ranked sales or price discounts (41.8%) or everyday low prices (12.7%) as most important. While those factors either declined or remained flat this year, two other categories rose in importance. The number of people who counted customer service as the most important factor rose from 4.4% last year to 5.3% this year, while shoppers who touted quality as the overriding factor rose from 11.8% to 12.7%.

As a potential sign that discretionary gifts may become more popular, 23% of people will ask for jewelry this year, up 10% from last year. Gift cards will remain the most requested holiday gift this year with 57% of people asking for plastic.

In another sign that shoppers feel a bit of breathing room in their budget, the number of people who say they will make a holiday purchase from a discounter dropped from 70.1% last year to 65.1% this year. Popular holiday shopping destinations will include department stores (54.5%), grocery stores (46.7%), the Internet (43.9%) and clothing stores (33.6%).

Mobile devices such as iPhones and Androids are becoming more popular among consumers, and many shoppers plan to use these devices this holiday season to look for gift ideas, compare prices and find items in nearby stores. According to the survey, over one-fourth of American adults with a smartphone (26.8%) will use these devices to research or make holiday purchases, and that number jumps to 45% among young adults 18-24.

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