Americans Predict $714 in Holiday Gift Spending

November 16, 2010

Americans currently predict they will spend $714 on Christmas gifts this year, almost 12% more than the $638 they forecast in November a year ago for the 2009 holiday season, according to a new Gallup poll.

November Forecast Virtually Identical to October

The current forecast of $714 is nearly identical to Americans’ October prediction of $715. If that figure holds true in December 2010, then likely there will be about a 2% increase in actual holiday sales between 2009 and 2010.

However, if consumers’ spending estimate increases between November and December, as it typically does, actual retail sales could improve by closer to 4%, similar to the long-term average.

1 in 3 Americans Plans to Spend Less This Year

Although the majority of Americans, 52%, say they will spend the same on gifts this year as in 2009, roughly one in three Americans, 34%, say they will spend less, compared with 12% saying they will spend more. That 22-percentage-point gap is nearly double the average 13-point difference between these figures during the past 20 years, providing what Gallup terms a note of caution to Americans’ dollar spending forecast.
The current gap is significantly below the 39-point gap found in November 2008, during the period when the extent of the global economic collapse first became known. However, in periods of relative economic prosperity, such as from 1995 through 2000, the figures were about even.

2010 on Track to Improve from 2009

Poll data suggests US consumers seem on track to increase their Christmas spending this year compared with 2009. The precise percentage increase is unclear, and will likely be reflected in what Americans say about their gift-buying intentions in December 2010.

Historically, Gallup data indicates consumers’ estimates of their Christmas spending increase between November and December, and the amount of that increase will indicate whether retailers can expect modest growth or something closer to the average 4% increases seen in the years preceding the 2008 economic collapse.

NRF: Average Holiday Spending Rises 1%

NRF estimates indicate average US holiday spending this year is expected to climb about 1% compared to 2009, from $681.83 to $688.87. This year’s average represents a slight 0.8% dip from the 2008 average of $694.19. However, holiday sales are down a marked 9% from $755.13 in 2007. December 2007 is generally considered the starting point of the current worldwide recession.

About the Data: Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov 4-7, 2010, with a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

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