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Shoppers To Be Slightly Less Conservative in Holiday Spending

WASHINGTON - Consumers will be taking a conservative approach to buying gifts and seasonal décor this holiday, as their projected spending budgets are expected to inch up modestly this year over 2011.
     National Retail Federation's (NRF) 2012 Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, which was conducted by consumer research firm BigInsight, found the average holiday shopper will spend $749.51 on gifts, décor, greeting cards and more, compared to the $740.57 they actually spent last year.
     NRF is forecasting holiday sales will increase 4.1% 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 Matthew Shay, NRF president and ceo.
     The survey polled 8,899 consumers from Oct. 2-8.
     When it comes to decorations, the average person will spend $51.99, almost 6% more than last year's average of $49.15 and the most in the survey's history. Total spending on holiday décor is projected to reach $6.9 billion.
     The biggest portion of shoppers' budgets this year will go toward gifts for family members, with the average person planning to spend $421.82 on children, parents, aunts, uncles and others. 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 average $100.76 on food and candy, $28.66 on greeting cards, and $19.55 on flowers.
     Consumers are "now accustomed to living on a budget, cutting back on nonessential purchases, and using coupons and searching for deals," NRF noted. More than half of the consumers surveyed -- 52.3% -- said the state of the U.S. economy will affect their spending plans, down from 62.2% last year.
     Three in 10 (31.4%) consumers affected by the economy will comparative shop online more often, 46.4% will shop for sales more often, 23.2% will travel less or not at all, and 6.0% will comparative shop using their mobile device.
     Consistent with results seen over the past decade, four in 10 (41.4%) of Americans said they will begin holiday shopping before Halloween. "Perhaps boosted by interest in layaway options or an urge to score the season's ‘musthave' item before it is too late," NRF said, 22.1% said they will begin in October, up from 20.3% last year. Another four in 10 (39.0%) will begin in November, 16.2% will begin in first two weeks of December and 3.5% will wait until the very last minute and shop in the last two weeks of December.
     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% will shop at a grocery store for holiday items, up from 48.8% 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% last year. When asked what percent of their holiday shopping they planned to do online, the average person will complete about 38.8% of their shopping on retailers' and other companies' websites, another survey high.
     Shop.org, NRF's digital division, is forecasting online holiday sales will grow 12% to as much as $96 billion.
     A boon to this year's holiday is the new development that 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.
     NRF's survey also offered a breakdown of spending by age group. Seven in 10 (71.5%) young adults ages 18 to 24, "often the ones seen standing in the long lines for retailers' midnight and early-bird Black Friday promotions," NRF said, 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.
     On holiday wish lists, gift cards lead the way for this year. The survey found six in 10 (59.8%) of those polled said they'd like to receive gift cards this year, up from 57.7% last year and the most in the survey's history. By comparison, half (49.1%) said they would like clothing, 45.7% said books, CD, DVDs, videos, or video games, and more than one-third (35.8%) are requesting electronics or computer-related accessories.

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