"Holiday Lane" at the Macy's on State St. Monday, Oct.15, 2012. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: November 18, 2012 7:00AM
Holiday shoppers are expected to spend record amounts online and in buying for themselves this holiday, with the average shopper spending $749.51 this year on gifts, decor, greeting cards and other items, up 1.2 percent from last year.
The retailers’ interest group has estimated overall holiday spending in November and December will be up 4.1 percent, to $586.1 billion. That would be the smallest increase since 2009 when sales inched up 0.3 percent from the previous year. The federation predicted growth of 5.6 percent in 2010 and 5.5 percent in 2011.
Shoppers in the survey, taken Oct. 2-8, were divided about the economy, with 52.3 percent saying it would affect their spending and 47.7 percent saying it would have no effect.
The worries are reflected in 31.4 percent saying they will compare prices online more often than before; 46.4 percent shopping more often for sales, and 23.2 percent traveling less or not at all. Sales and discounts will determine the location that 36.6 percent said they will shop for the holidays.
More shoppers than ever will use smartphones to compare prices. More than half (52.9 percent) of smartphone owners, compared with 52.6 percent last year, will do so. Of tablet owners, 64.1 percent of will use their devices to research and buy holiday gifts, decor, food and other items, down slightly from last year’s 70.5 percent.
Shoppers will set two new highs shopping online, with 51.8 percent planning to shop online, up from 46.7 percent last year, and the average person doing 38.8 percent of their holiday shopping online versus 36 percent last year.
Shoppers also will set a record for being generous to themselves, with 59 percent planning to spend an average of $139.92 on “self gifting” — the highest amount in the survey’s 10-year history. And six in 10 shoppers would most like to receive gift cards, up from 57.7 percent last year and the most in the survey’s history.
Despite shoppers’ willingness to spend, their wariness about the economy has prompted forecasters to predict slower sales than in the past two years.
Deloitte Consulting, which includes January in its estimate, has forecast a 3.5 percent to 4 percent increase in holiday sales; retail-foot traffic counter ShopperTrak foresees a 3.3 percent increase, and the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) forecasts a 2.9 percent jump in retail store shopping and a 12.6 percent increase in online spending. The National Retail Federation is forecasting a 12 percent increase in online shopping, to $96 billion.
“It’s still a healthy performance, but slower than the last couple years,” said Michael Niemera, chief economist and director of research for ICSC.
The main reasons are increases in clothing prices and what Niemira calls “a worry factor” about the “fiscal cliff,” a deadline facing Congress to agree to a spending plan. Even if shoppers don’t know what the fiscal cliff means, they will know after the presidential election because the media will focus on it, Niemira said.
“If Congress agrees on what it needs to do and the financial markets react positively, it could be a positive for consumer confidence and spending, and we’ll see a better holiday,” he said. “If Congress goes down to the wire, it could be detrimental to confidence and spending.”