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NRF: Per-person holiday spending to rise 5%, with 44% of shopping done online

BY Dan Berthiaume

Washington, D.C. — The average person celebrating Christmas, Kwanza and/or Hanukkah will spend $804.42, up nearly 5% from 2013’s actual $767.27, according to the National Retail Federation’s 13th annual Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. In other results, the average shopper plans to do 44% of their holiday shopping online, the most in the survey’s history.

For the first time, NRF asked consumers about their comfort level using a smartphone or tablet to pay for merchandise at a store check-out counter. It found that 27.4% would be somewhat or very comfortable. But two in five (41.9%) say they are not very or not at all comfortable paying for items that way.

The survey found consumers will spend an average of $459.87 on gifts for their family, up 6.5% from $432 last year, and $80 on gifts for friends, up 7% from $75.00 last year. Spending on traditional items such as decorations and food will remain flat: according to the survey, consumers will spend an average of $104.74 on food, $53.68 on decorations and $29.18 on greeting cards and $20.30 on flowers.

One of the more popular trends in recent years, self-gifting, will decrease this year as shoppers opt to shift their budgets towards spending on others: About 57% of holiday shoppers say they plan to take advantage of sales and discounts to purchase non-gift items for themselves or others, and will spend an average of $126.68, down 6% from $134.77 last year.

Looking at digital shopping trends, the survey shows that 56% of consumers plan to shop online, up from 51.5% last year and the most in the survey’s 13-year history. Additionally, the average person plans to do 44% of their shopping online, the most since NRF first asked in 2006.

The survey also found the majority of smartphone owners (55.7%) will use their device in some fashion, up from 53.8% last year. Specifically, 35.8% will research products/prices, the highest amount in the four years NRF has been asking. Nearly one-quarter (23.9%) will redeem coupons and 19.1% will actually purchase items–another survey high.

Almost two-thirds (63.2%) of tablet owners will use their device to research and purchase holiday items, which is the same as last holiday season. Nearly half (47.4%) will research products and one-third (33%) will purchase items.

Broken out by age, 41.1% of 25-34 year olds are somewhat or very comfortable using their device to pay for items at the register, compared to just 14.4 percent of those 65 and older. Men are much more likely to feel comfortable with the technology (32.6% vs. 22.5% of women.)

Looking at when consumers are beginning their holiday shopping, the survey found four in 10 (40.4%) begin their holiday shopping before Halloween–consistent with more than 10 years of survey findings. The survey also found 40.9% will begin in November, up slightly from 38.8% last year, and 15.5% will begin in the first two weeks of December, flat with 16% last year.

One-quarter of shoppers say easy-to-use mobile websites is an important factor in their decision to shop with a specific retailer. Those polled also say free shipping/shipping promotions (42.3%) are important factors. Consumers add that helpful, knowledgeable customer service (30.3%), convenient locations (47.9%), low prices (41.2%) and sales or price discounts (74.7%) also aid in their decision to shop at a particular retailer.

Six in 10 survey participants said quality of merchandise (60.9%) and selection of merchandise (59.4%) are important factors in their decision to shop somewhere. Many consumers will visit discount (61.9%), department (59.7%) and grocery stores (51.2%). Others will head to clothing or accessories stores (36.7%), electronics (30.8%), drug (19.2%) and craft and fabric stores (18.8%).

For the eighth year in a row gift cards are the most requested gift item among those celebrating the holidays. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they’d most like to receive a gift card, followed by clothing (52.5%), books, CDs, DVDs or video games (43.1%), and electronics (34.6%). One-quarter (24.8%) said they’d like to receive jewelry, up from 23.3% last year.

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