The “early returns” from this year’s Black Friday retail sales are quite encouraging. Online retail sales are experiencing an even bigger bump in activity. The question is, do these positive early results foreshadow a strong holiday season overall?
Each year, Gallup attempts to answer that question in advance by conducting a poll every November in which it asks U.S. consumers for a prediction of the total amount of money they plan to spend on holiday gifts. This year’s poll findings were published this past week.
And the results? The good news from the consumer economy’s standpoint is that the average personal spending expectation has risen to $714 for 2010, which is ~12% higher than last year’s $638.
The not-so-good news is that we’re still in the doldrums when measured against most of the previous decade. In fact, only in the years of 2009, 2008 and 2002 has expected personal spending been lower than it is this year.
If we take an average of the ten years covering 2000-2009, the expected personal spending found by Gallup’s survey is $747, which means that 2010’s dollar amount doesn’t even come up to the average of the past decade.
Here’s another interesting finding from the survey: Evidently, the increase in expected holiday spending compared to last year is being driven by only a small percentage of consumers. Half of the Gallup respondents reported they would be spending “about the same” this year, whereas one third reported they would actually be spending less.
The remainder – fewer than 15% — reported they would be spending more.
And all of that activity on the Internet? We can be sure a goodly amount of it is driven by the desire to find the very best price available. And to prove that out, the latest online holiday shopping report survey from rich media firm Unicast finds that more than half of consumers are using the Web to research and compare deals between online stores and retail outlets.
The bottom line on all this: It’s a mixed picture with a slight lean on the scale in favor of optimism. Which is a darn sight more positive than what we saw in 2008 and 2009.
Happy Chris-kwanz-ukah, everyone.