NRF: Average Consumer to Crack $700 on Holiday Spending

A new survey from Bigresearch for the National Retail Federation forecasts that the average U.S. consumer plans to spend $702.03 for the holidays, up 4.5 percent from last year.

Higher gas prices and rising interest rates are not expected to deter consumers from spending an estimated $219.9 billion across all retail channels, including stores, catalogs and e-commerce.

“It shows that the holiday season is somewhat protected when it comes to spending,” said Ellen Tolley, director of media relations at NRF, Washington. “Consumers are extremely resilient at this time of year, and many of them put away money every month to celebrate the holiday season.”

The NRF 2004 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey shows consumers this year will spend $406.52 on gifts for family and $71.29 for friends. They will spend $22.12 on co-workers and $41.10 on other people, including teachers, clergy and babysitters.

Consumers will spend $83.77 on candy and food, $35.91 on decorations, $25.22 on greeting cards and postage and $16.10 on flowers.

Bigresearch polled 7,861 consumers Oct. 6-14 for the survey, which has a plus or minus margin of error of 1 percent.

The survey found many people intend to buy for themselves. It was true of 51.2 percent of those polled, who are expected to spend $89.25 on non-gift purchases for themselves or family. Men and young adults, by a large margin, intend to spend the most on themselves — $116.87 and $114.69, respectively.

The survey said 53.1 percent of consumers hoped to receive either books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games. Clothing and accessories resonated with 50.6 percent, consumer electronics with 32.6 percent, jewelry with 22.6 percent and home décor with 21.3 percent. Also, 50.2 percent of consumers preferred to receive a gift card, up more than 10 percentage points in the past two years.

In addition, 41.8 percent said sales or price discounts were most important as they shopped at a particular store, and 15.6 percent said everyday low prices were the determining factor. Twenty percent shop at stores based on merchandise selection, 8.7 percent on quality and 7.8 percent by location. Only 4.4 percent said “helpful, knowledgeable customer service” was the most important factor when deciding where to shop. Two years ago the figure was 3.1 percent.

“In the last few years we've seen price starting to take a back seat,” Tolley said. “Although most customers may not choose stores based strictly on customer service, a good experience will keep them coming back.”

The survey found 34.3 percent start their holiday shopping in November and 23.1 percent in December. Eighteen percent began that process before September, 6.9 percent in that month and 17.7 percent beginning in October.

Also, 77.1 percent of consumers will conduct their holiday shopping at discounters and 53.1 percent at department stores. Using other channels as well, 46.7 percent will shop at grocery stores, 39.3 percent at specialty stores and 38.3 percent over the Internet.

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