Shoppers to Remain Conservative With Holiday Gift Budgets This Year, According to NRF



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Shoppers to Remain Conservative With Holiday Gift Budgets This Year, According to NRF
-Self-Gifting, Online Shopping Reach Survey Highs-

Washington, October 17, 2012 – Consumers are prepared for a holly, jolly holiday season, though it's evident most will take a conservative approach with their gift-giving budgets. According to NRF's holiday consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight, the average holiday shopper will spend $749.51 on gifts, décor, greeting cards and more, up slightly from the $740.57 they actually spent last year. NRF is forecasting holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion.*

"We've seen this pattern of cautious optimism all year and despite the challenges that still exist in our economy, it looks as if consumers are eager to celebrate with friends and family," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. "As the most promotional time of the year, retailers will continue to look for ways to  stand out, specifically with attractive deals on toys, electronics and apparel, even well before the 'official' start of the holiday shopping season – Black Friday and Cyber Monday."

According to the survey, the biggest portion of shoppers' budget this year will go towards gifts for family members with the average person planning to spend $421.82 on children, parents, aunt, uncles and more. Additionally, people will spend $75.13 on friends, $23.48 on co-workers and $28.13 on others, such as pets and community members. Consumers will also spend on food and candy ($100.76), greeting cards ($28.66) and flowers ($19.55.) When it comes to decorations, the average person will spend $51.99, up from $49.15 last year and the most in the survey's history. Total spending on holiday décor will reach $6.9 billion.

Economy Now "New Normal" as Fewer People Plan to Change Spending Plans

In recent years, NRF's holiday surveys have asked how the economy will impact consumers' spending plans. This holiday season, now accustomed to living on a budget, cutting back on non-essential purchases, and using coupons and searching for deals, 52.3 percent say the state of the U.S. economy will affect their spending plans, down from 62.2 last year. While recent polls have shown that consumers are focused on the economy as it relates to discretionary spending, the lower percentage is indicative of a consumer that has spent four years changing spending habits, and is better prepared for the uncertain economic outlook in the near future. 

"More than half of Americans this holiday season will feel the impact of the economy and will compensate by doing what they've been doing for several years – looking for ways to cut any corners, comparative shop online and in stores more often, and even planning to travel less or not at all," stated Shay.

Specifically, three in 10 (31.4%) consumers affected by the economy will comparative shop online more often, 46.4 percent will shop for sales more often, 23.2 percent will travel less or not at all, and 6.0 percent will comparative shop using their mobile device.

Shoppers Plan to Start Early, More Than Half Will Shop Online For Gifts

Consistent with results seen the past 10 years, four in 10 (41.4%) of Americans say they will begin holiday shopping before Halloween. Perhaps boosted by interest in layaway options or an urge to score the season's "must have" item before it is too late, 22.1 percent say they will begin in October, up from 20.3 percent last year. Another four in 10 (39.0%) will begin in November, 16.2 percent will begin in first two weeks of December and 3.5 percent will wait until the very last minute and shop in the last two weeks of December.

There's no question about the role comparison shopping plays with today's budget-conscious shopper, especially when it comes to the winter holiday season. According to the survey, consumers will spend a considerable amount of time in stores and online this year looking for the best deal. Nearly two-thirds (65.3%) will shop at discount stores and more than half (57.8%) will shop at department stores. Clothing stores (36.2%), electronics stores (31.8%) and specialty stores (16.7%) will be popular with holiday shoppers as well. Grocery stores will also see increased foot traffic – 51.8 percent will shop at a grocery store for holiday items, up from 48.8 percent last year.

Setting a new high, more than half (51.8%) will shop online for gifts and other items this holiday season, up from 46.7 percent last year. When asked what percent of their holiday shopping they planned to do online, the average person will complete about 38.8 percent of their shopping on retailers' and other companies websites, another survey high., NRF's digital division, is forecasting online holiday sales will grow 12 percent to as much as $96 billion.**

Self-Gifting Reaches All-Time High

As a nod to just how much shoppers enjoy taking advantage of retailers' holiday promotions to treat themselves to something nice, consumers are expected to spend the most on non-gift items in the survey's 10-year history. Six in 10 shoppers (59.0%) plan to spend an average of $139.92 on "self-gifting" this holiday season.

Seven in 10 (71.5%) young adults ages 18-24, often the ones seen standing in the long lines for retailers' midnight and early-bird Black Friday promotions, will spend an average of $159.62 – the highest percent of any age group, though not the most amount of money. Adults ages 25-34 will spend the most at $175.65.

"It looks like young adults have the 'one for you two for me' mentality about the holiday season this year, which is surprising given that this is also the age group that typically doesn't have the income or ability to splurge," said BIGinsight Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. "What isn't surprising is that retailers' holiday promotions continue to strike a chord with this age group, especially with promotions surrounding popular electronics and apparel items."

Six in 10 Holiday Shoppers Would Most Like to Receive Gift Cards

When it comes to holiday wish lists, the usual culprits top the list each year: clothing, books, DVDs, video games, and electronics, but there's one that stands out more than any other – gift cards. According to the survey, six in 10 (59.8%) of those polled say they'd like to receive gift cards this year, up from 57.7 percent last year and the most in the survey's history. Half (49.1%) say they would like clothing, 45.7 percent said books,  CD, DVDs, videos, or video games, and more than one-third (35.8%) are requesting electronics or computer-related accessories. Nearly one-quarter (24.0%) want jewelry, the most seen since 2008.

Sales and Discounts Drive People's Shopping Decisions

For some it's the selection and availability of merchandise, for others it's a retailer's no hassle return policy, but for most, it's the option of sales and discounts that drives their decision to shop with a particular retailer during the holiday season. Thirty-six percent (36.6%) said the most important factor in deciding where to shop are offers for sales and discounts, along with 16.1 percent who say the most important factor is selection of merchandise and 13.7 percent who say it's quality of merchandise.

Smartphones, Tablets to Aid in Shoppers Holiday Purchases

Mobile shopping will be a big part of consumers' shopping experience this year, and according to the survey, more than half (52.9%) of those who own smartphones and nearly two-thirds (64.1%) of those who own tablets plan to use their devices to research and purchase holiday gifts, décor, food items, and more.

Specifically, 32.9 percent of smartphone owners will research products and compare prices with their handheld, and another 24.9 will use their phone to look up retailer information, such as store location, hours and directions. Nearly two in 10 (17.6%) will use apps to research or purchase products and 15.0 percent plan to purchase items.

Tablet owners are even more likely to use their tablet to aid in their holiday purchases. Four in 10 (44.2%) will research products or compare prices, 19.8 percent will redeem coupons and more than one-quarter (27.6%) will look up a retailer's location and/or store hours. Three in 10 (30.0%) will actually make a purchase with their tablet.

About the Survey

The NRF 2012 Holiday Consumer Spending Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey polled 8,899 consumers and was conducted for NRF by BIGinsight October 2-8, 2012. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.

BIGinsight delivers executives timely, consumer-centric insights from multiple sources. As a comprehensive resource of information, BIGinsight represents the voice of the consumer and provides knowledge to marketers regarding consumer views on the economy, personal finance, retail, lifestyle, media and domestic and world issues.

As the world's largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation's economy. NRF's Retail Means Jobs campaign emphasizes the economic importance of retail and encourages policymakers to support a Jobs, Innovation and Consumer Value Agenda aimed at boosting economic growth and job creation.


* NRF defines the holiday season as sales in the months of November and December and forecasts holiday sales growth each year based on U.S. Commerce Department data such as previous months retail sales, the housing market, employment and more. NRF's consumer spending surveys are not a part of the forecast model.

** for the first time released an online holiday sales forecast. The online forecast is based on data collected by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Federal Researve, the U.S. Census, The Conference Board and NRF's own calculations. NRF's spending survey is not a part of the forecast.