FINANCE

NRF urges Washington to fix fiscal cliff before Black Friday

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — The National Retail Federation on Wednesday urged President Obama and Congress to come up with a plan to avoid the “fiscal cliff” by Thanksgiving, saying uncertainty over the pending combination of tax hikes and spending cuts threatens consumer confidence during the holiday shopping season that begins on Black Friday.

“Although most economists have focused on the impact to the economy in 2013, more immediate economic consequences could occur over the next few weeks if consumers lose confidence in the ability of policymakers to work together to solve tough problems,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Any disruption to consumer confidence and spending during this season could prompt a crisis for retailers and the millions of U.S. jobs the industry supports.”

Rather than setting New Year’s Eve as its deadline, Washington needs to act quickly to set in place a framework for resolving this situation, preferably before Thanksgiving, said Shay.

Shay’s comments came in a letter sent Wednesday to the president and all members of the House and Senate. Shay explained in the letter that many retailers make a quarter or more of their annual sales during the November-December holiday season. NRF is forecasting that holiday sales will increase 4.1% to $586.1 billion this year.

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FINANCE

Gift card spending to reach record $28.79 billion

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — The National Retail Federation’s 2012 holiday consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight showed that 81.1% of shoppers will purchase at least one gift card and will spend an average of $156.86 on gift cards, the highest amount in the survey’s 10-year history. Total spending on gift cards will reach $28.79 billion.

According to NRF’s first holiday survey, released in October, six in 10 (59.8%) of those polled said they’d like to receive gift cards this year, up from 57.7% last year.

“Retailers are pulling out all the stops this year to make their gift cards personal, convenient and desirable,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

Consumers will spend an average of $43.75 on each card they buy. As in previous years, men plan to spend significantly more on gift cards than women, shelling out an average of $172.98 versus women’s $141.66.

When it comes to which gift cards people will buy this holiday season, more people than ever say they will give their friends or family members a gift card for an online merchant (11.2%) and coffee shops (18.1%). Others will buy gift cards to department stores (39.1%), book stores (20.8%), grocery/gasoline stores (12.6%), and discount stores (14.2%). And 33.3% of shoppers will send friends and family for a night out with restaurant gift cards.

More than one in five (21.1%) gift givers say they’ll buy gift cards because they are easier and faster than traditional gifts. But practicality comes out as the most likely reason shoppers will buy gift cards this year as 44.7% say they’ll buy gift cards because they allow the recipient to select their own gift (down from the 46.4% of people who said the same last year).

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OPERATIONS

Increased number of shoppers intend to spend more for holidays

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — A report released Wednesday by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs found that consumers are more willing to spend this holiday season.

According to the 2012 Holiday Spending Intentions Survey, 19% of consumers plan to spend more (and 5% plan to spend substantially more) on holiday gifts this year versus last year. This is the highest percentage of consumers reporting they intend to increase spending over the previous holiday season since ICSC began asking the question in 2004.

The top three holiday-gift items for 2012 are gift cards (21.3%), apparel (14.1%) and toys and games (14.1%). Gift cards have consistently been one of the top items that consumers exchange during the holiday season, which is a key reason why the holiday season has been extended into January as gift-card redemptions dominate shopping in the post-Christmas period.

The top items that consumers say they want for this holiday season are: (1) gift cards (59%); (2) electronic gadgets (38%); and (3) electronic media (28%), which today spans music, CDs, DVDs and e-books. Interestingly, the ICSC-Goldman Sachs survey found that women are more inclined to want a gift card than men (63% versus 55%). However, men are more inclined to want electronic gadgets for their holiday gifts than women (46% versus 31%).

With the traditional holiday-season length being at its longest possible span this year (between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day is 32 days in 2012), consumers were asked when do they expect to finish their holiday-gift buying. About a fifth (21%) reported they intend to complete it within November with Black Friday shopping alone accounting for about 60% of the November completion target (or 12% of the November-December total). A little less than a fifth (19%) expected that they would complete their shopping by the first week of December and 27% thought the second week of December was their likely completion time frame. Another 20% reported the third week of December was their expectation for completion, while just 3% were real procrastinators, expecting to finish on Christmas Eve or later.

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