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Holiday sales forecasts predict flat or down season

NRF, Retail Forward, Pricegrabber release predictions

Holiday sales forecasts predict flat or down season
By Staff -- Gifts & Decorative Accessories
'Tis the season for studying shopping: A whole spate of studies put Christmas 2009 under the microscope.

Twenty-nine percent of consumers are planning to purchase gifts for fewer people this year, while only 10 percent did so last year, according to Los Angeles-based’s latest Holiday Forecast Consumer Behavior Report. Consumers are crossing acquaintances (57 percent) and coworkers (53 percent) off their gift lists. Fifty-three percent of consumers are planning to spend less than they did last year: 36 percent of consumers expect to spend between $100 and $499, 28 percent plan to spend $500 to $999, and 30 percent anticipate a holiday spend of $1,000 or more. Shopping will start earlier to ease the impact of holiday spending – 22 percent are starting their holiday shopping in October. It also found that 70 percent of consumers are doing more research and comparison shopping online, compared with 38 percent last year. Fifty percent shop at discount or outlet stores, while only 43 percent did so last year.

National Retail Federation
According to NRF’s 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $682.74 on holiday-related shopping, a 3.2 percent drop from last year’s $705.01. Two-thirds of Americans (65.3 percent) say the economy will affect their holiday plans this year, with the majority of these consumers saying they’re adjusting by simply spending less (84.2 percent). People will also be shopping for sales more often (55 percent), using more coupons (41.7 percent) and putting up last year’s decorations (34 percent). Many Americans will also make changes in gift-giving, planning to buy more practical gifts (36 percent), buying a joint gift for kids or parents (17.3 percent), and making more gifts (16.7 percent). 

More than half of holiday shoppers say that sales and price discounts (43 percent) or everyday low prices (12.7 percent) will be the most important factor when deciding where to shop. Factors like selection (21 percent), quality (11.8 percent), convenience (4.9 percent) and customer service (4.4 percent) declined from last year. The majority of holiday shoppers (70.1 percent) will purchase from discounters this year, though more than half (55.8 percent) will also shop at department stores. Grocery stores (45 percent), the Internet (42.4 percent), clothing stores (33.8 percent) and electronics stores (31.8 percent) will also be popular destinations. In addition, one in ten holiday shoppers (11.4 percent) will buy gifts or other holiday-related merchandise at thrift stores or resale shops. Some 39 percent of Americans will begin their holiday shopping before Halloween, which is comparable to previous years. 

As in previous years, three-fourths of Americans’ holiday budget will be spent on gifts. While spending on family members will decline by a slight two percent ($387.06 in ’09 vs. $395.15 in ’08), gifts for friends ($66.77 vs. $80.13) and co-workers ($19.26 vs. $22.63) will see double-digit drops. Americans also plan to spend about five percent less ($34.81 vs. $36.88) on “other” gifts for people like babysitters, teachers and clergy. Candy and food spending may be one bright spot this year, with the average person planning to spend $10 more in that category than last year ($90.26 in 2009 vs. $80.28 in 2008). Spending on other non-gift categories like decorations ($40.75 in ’09 vs. $43.45 in ’08), greeting cards and postage ($26.77 vs. $27.39), and flowers ($17.05 vs. $19.10) is expected to drop. Retailers are cutting back on inventory: According to NRF’s Port Tracker report, traffic to the nation’s ports has scaled back to levels not seen since 2003.

A new survey by MarketLive, a Petaluma, CA-based e-commerce and services company, found that 43 percent of shoppers will spend $300 to $800 this holiday season, the same as last year. Another 33 percent plan to fork over $800 to $2,500, down 3 percentage points from a year ago. Online shopping continues to grow, with 55 percent planning to do their holiday shopping online this year, up from 49 percent last year. One-quarter, or 26 percent, plan to buy more gifts online than they've bought before, compared with 21 percent last year. One in three shoppers plans to use a cell phone to check prices, redeem promotions and find out whether merchandise is in stock.

Retail Forward
Retail Forward forecasts flat growth this holiday season, compared with a 4.5 percent decline a year ago, for the holiday fourth quarter in the key holiday retail segments combined. That would still make this the second-worst holiday in 42 years. The holiday segments represent all retailing except the auto, food and drug channels. Included are home improvement stores, catalogs, online sales and the sectors known as GAFO (general merchandise stores such as conventional and discount department stores, supercenters, warehouse clubs, apparel stores, furniture, home furnishings, consumer electronics and other specialty stores).

American Express
The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker found that 80 percent of consumers still intend to buy gifts for the holidays this year. One in five intends to do so in October, with women outnumbering men by 28 percent versus 16 percent.

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