With the holiday shopping season just around the corner, U.S. consumers say they will spend an average $967.13 this year, according to the annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics for the National Retail Federation.
That’s up 3.4% from the $935.58 consumers said they would spend when surveyed at the same time last year, according to NRF. The survey of 7,349 consumers was conducted Oct. 3 to 10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.
With employment and incomes increasing, consumers are more confident this year and that is reflected in their buying plans for the holidays.
“With employment and incomes increasing, consumers are more confident this year and that is reflected in their buying plans for the holidays,” says Matthew Shay, president and CEO of NRF. “Retailers have been stocking up in expectation of this, and all signs are that this will be a busy holiday season.”
Preparing for the rush
Retailers are preparing for a rush of consumers leading into Thanksgiving and all through December, and are offering a wide array of merchandise and promotions so shoppers can find great gifts and great deals at the same time, Shay adds.
The consumer survey comes on top of NRF’s annual holiday spending forecast, which takes into account a variety of economic factors and projects that holiday retail sales in November and December this year will be up between 3.6% and 4% for a total between $678.8 billion and $682 billion, the association states.
In addition, imports set an all-time record high late this summer as retailers brought in an unprecedented amount of merchandise in anticipation of a strong holiday season, and are continuing at unusually high numbers this fall, according to NRF’s monthly Global Port Tracker report.
The survey found that only 27% of consumers say their spending will be impacted by concerns about the nation’s economy, down from 32% during 2016’s election-year jitters and the lowest level since NRF began asking the question during the Great Recession in 2009.
Holiday spending comes in three main categories — gifts, at $608.06; items such as food, decorations, flowers and greeting cards, at $218.08; and other non-gift items consumers buy for themselves and their families, at $140.99.
For the first time in survey history, online is the most popular shopping destination this year, cited by 59% of consumers. The survey also found that 57% will shop at a department store, 54% at a discount store, 46% at a grocery store/supermarket and 35% at clothing or accessories store. The survey found 27% plan to visit an electronics store, 25% a small or local business, and 18% will go to a crafts or fabrics store.
Most online shoppers will take advantage of free shipping (94%) and conveniences like buy online, pick up in store (49%). In addition, 19% will take advantage of expedited shipping and 12% will use same-day delivery, according to NRF.
Avoiding stress, crowds
Most consumers (59%) are waiting until at least November to begin holiday shopping. However, 22% started or were planning to start in October and 19% in September or earlier. Of the early shoppers, 65% say they are trying to spread out their budgets while 49% do not want the stress of last-minute shopping and 48% want to avoid the crowds.
“While many consumers are holding off until November or later to start their holiday shopping, retailers should be prepared for high traffic online and in stores come Thanksgiving weekend as customers start tackling their lists,” says Prosper Insights Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow.
Although sales will remain an important factor for most consumers, many will lean on convenient locations and easy-to-use websites or mobile apps along with free shipping to complete their purchases, she says.
For the eleventh year in a row, NRF states that gift cards remain the most popular items on wish lists, requested by 61% of those surveyed, followed by clothing and accessories at 55%, the highest level the category has seen in 12 years.
Two in five (39%) would like books, music or movies, the lowest in survey history. Others asked for consumer electronics (33%), home décor (24%), jewelry (23%), personal care or beauty items (21%), sporting goods (20%), and home improvement items (18%), according to NRF.