Holiday Consumer Spending Forecast Tracks the Economy: Just Muddling Along

The holiday shopping forecast for 2011 is pretty blah.If anyone was hoping for good news at the end of the year, it’s not coming in the form of increased holiday spending by consumers.

The National Retail Federation’s annual Holiday Consumer Intentions & Actions Survey concludes that holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of just over $700 on holiday gifts and seasonal merchandise.

That’s down slightly from last year’s holiday spending plans, which were closer to $720.

The chart below shows how average holiday spending has mirrored general economic conditions in the country over the past eight years:

 2004: ~$700
 2005: ~$735
 2006: ~$751
 2007: ~$755
 2008: ~$694
 2009: ~$681
 2010: ~$719
 2011: ~$704

After having grown to more than $750 in the 2006/07 period, a significant drop-off was seen in 2008 and 2009. With the recession bottoming out, this was followed by a tidy little jump in holiday spending 2010.

But just like the rest of the economic picture, things have stalled since then – or pulled slightly back.

In another recent survey, Ipsos Public Affairs has found that women are more likely than men to be planning to cut back on their holiday shopping outlays … as are people over age 35 compared to younger adults.

With consumers continuing to watch their wallets, it’s no surprise that many are taking advantage of savings opportunities. In the Ipsos survey, half of all respondents reported that they had used magazine coupons within the previous 30 days, and there was significant usage of online savings vehicles as well:

 Magazine or newspaper coupons: ~50% have used in the past 30 days
 Loyalty cards or in-store promos: ~47% have used
 Printable coupons from the web: ~28% have used
 Online “daily deal” coupons: ~27% have used
 Online coupon codes: ~25% have used

Despite the slightly lower figures for intended holiday spending in 2011, the National Retail Federation’s survey finds that nearly 40% of consumers will have already started their holiday shopping in October. A similar 40% plan to start shopping in November, while the remaining 20% won’t begin their shopping activities until September.

[A slim ~4% represent those procrastinators who don’t plan to start any of their shopping until the last two weeks of December; I think most of us all know at least one person who falls into this rarified category.]

And if you’re wondering how the average shopper plans to allocate his or her holiday spending this year, it comes as little surprise that shopping for gifts for children and other family members represents well over half of the value of planned purchases:

 Gifts for children, parents and other family members: ~$403
 Gifts for friends, co-workers and others: ~$112
 Holiday-related food items: ~$97
 Holiday decorations: ~$47
 Greeting cards: ~$27
 Flowers: ~$18

What about you? Do your holiday shopping plans for 2011 mirror what the NRF survey found?

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