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Here’s how much consumers will spend on Valentine’s Day in 2018

This year's spending came close to the 2016 record-high of $19.7 billion

Consumers in the U.S. are projected to spend a near-record amount on gifts this Valentine’s Day, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The average shopper will spend $143.56 on Valentine’s Day gifts like jewelry, flowers, candy, and dinner -- an increase from last year’s $136.57.

This year, the total estimating spending haul will hit $19.6 billion, with jewelry purchases accounting for a majority of that figure (an estimated $4.7 billion).

Spending on food and entertainment options are projected at $3.7 billion, followed by flowers ($2 billion), clothing ($1.9 billion), and candy ($1.8 billion).

Millennials will spend most

More than half of U.S. consumers (55 percent) plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day in some way this year, according to the survey of 7,277.

“Americans are looking forward to pampering and indulging their loved ones with flowers, candy, dinner and all of the other Valentine’s Day stops,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “With the holidays behind them and the winter months dragging along, consumers are looking for something to celebrate this time of year.”

The average person will spend $88.98 on gifts and treats for their significant other, $25.29 on other family members like parents or children, and $4.79 on coworkers.

Millennials aged 25-34 are projected to spend more than any other age bracket, dropping an average of $202.76. Millennials are also most likely (41 percent) to give a “gift of experience,” such as tickets to a concert or sporting event compared to 24 percent in other age groups.

Some consumers look to splurge on themselves

The NRF estimates that about three in 10 adults (27 percent) don't plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day but still plan on doing some shopping, either on a special gift for themselves or on anti-Valentine’s Day gifts.

“Valentine’s Day has become a holiday consumers take advantage of not only to spoil their loved ones but themselves,” Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said.

“Shoppers should look out for deals on everything from candy to date-night dinner packages in the coming days, leaving plenty of options for those looking to make the occasion truly special.”

Consumers in the U.S. are projected to spend a near-record amount on gifts this Valentine’s Day, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Fed...

Spending boom projected for St. Patrick’s Day

Consumers are expected to shell out huge amounts of green

When you compare it with Christmas or Mothers Day, St. Patrick’s Day isn't what you might call a “major” holiday.

But that won't stop consumers from the spendin' o' the green for the wearin' o' the green.

The National Retail Federation's (NRF) annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, predicts spending for St. Patrick’s Day revelry will hit $5.3 billion -- the high point in the survey’s 13-year history.

More than 139 million U.S. consumers plan to celebrate the Irish holiday, laying out an average of $37.92 per person to do so. That tops last years spending by $2.55 and beats the old record of $36.52 set in 2015.

“Now that winter is almost behind us and with St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Friday, we will see more Americans getting together to celebrate with friends and family,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Retailers should expect a nice boost in sales as consumers purchase apparel, decorations, food and beverages to help make their celebrations special.”

It's party time

The survey finds 83% of those celebrating will wear green to show their Irish pride, 31% plan to make a special dinner and 27% will head for a bar or restaurant. Twenty-three percent said they plan to decorate their homes or offices in an Irish theme, and 15% will go to a private party. In addition, 15% are planning to attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade, especially those living in the Northeast (21%).

In addition, 52% of those celebrating will buy food, 41% beverages, 28% apparel or accessories, 22% decorations, and 14% candy. Those folks shopping will do it at grocery stores (39%), discount stores (29%), bars/restaurants (21%), and department stores (18%).

While the holiday is most popular among individuals 18-24 years old (77% celebrating), those 25-34 will be the biggest spenders at an average of $46.55.

The survey, which was conducted February 1-8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points, asked 7,609 consumers about their St. Patrick’s Day plans.

When you compare it with Christmas or Mothers Day, St. Patrick’s Day isn't what you might call a “major” holiday.But that won't stop consumers from the...

Drop projected in Valentine’s Day spending

Fewer people celebrating means fewer buck spent

After rising for about a decade, the amount of money being spent on Valentine's Day is expected to decline this year.

The annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics projects consumers in the U.S. will shell out an average $136.57, down $10.27 from last year's record high.

In addition, total spending is also expected to fall to $18.2 billion from last year's all-time high of $19.7 billion.

A decline in lovers?

One reason for the decline may be that fewer people will be celebrating. The number of people surveyed who plan to celebrate the holiday has dropped by nearly 10% -- from 63% in 2007 to 54% this year.

“Valentine’s Day continues to be a popular gift-giving occasion even if consumers are being more frugal this year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This is one day of the year when millions find a way to show their loved ones they care regardless of their budget.”

According to this year’s survey, consumers plan to spend an average $85.21 on their significant other/spouse, $26.59 on other family members such as children or parents, $6.56 on children’s classmates/teachers, $6.51 on friends, $4.27 on co-workers, and $4.44 on pets.

What we're buying

Consumers plan to spend $4.3 billion on jewelry (given by 19% of shoppers), $3.8 billion on an evening out (37%), $2 billion on flowers (35%), $1.9 billion on clothing (19%), $1.7 billion on candy (50%t), $1.4 billion on gift cards/gift certificates (16%), and $1 billion on greeting cards (47%).

“Gifts of experience” such as tickets to a concert, sporting event, or an outdoor adventure appear to be popular this year -- at least among potential recipients. While 40% of consumers want one, only 24% plan to give one.

Consumers plan to shop at department stores (35%), discount stores (32%), online (27%), specialty stores (18%), florists (18%), and local small businesses (15%).

The survey, which asked 7,591 consumers about their Valentine’s Day plans, was conducted January 4-11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1%.

After rising for about a decade, the amount of money being spent on Valentine's Day is expected to decline this year.The annual survey by the National...

Holiday sales increase by 4% in 2016

Experts point to an improving economy as the main cause

Holiday retail sales in November and December showed strong gains in 2016. The National Retail Federation (NRF) says sales increased year-over-year by 4% to $658.3 billion, mostly due to a strengthening economy.

Additionally, non-store sales surged during the latter part of last year to $122.9 billion, which is up 12.6% from 2015. The increases eclipse previous NRF predictions of a 3.6% increase during the holidays, and experts say that it only shows that the economy is picking up steam.

“These numbers show that the nation’s slow-but-steady economic recovery is picking up speed and that consumers feel good about the future. Retail mirrors the economy. And while there might have been some bumps in the road for individual companies, the retail industry overall had a solid holiday season and retailers will work to sustain this in the year ahead,” said NRF CEO and President Matthew Shay.

Online sales flourish

While the numbers look good for overall holiday retail, Shay points out that online and non-store sales continued to improve over sales at brick-and-mortar locations, going up by 12.6%. However, he adds that it doesn’t matter much to the retailer if consumers are buying online or at store locations – as long as the money keeps rolling in.

“There has been a lot of talk about online versus in-store retail in the past few months, but that comes from people who don’t realize that online and retail today are the same thing,” Shay said.

“In the new distributed commerce world that allows consumers to buy any product, anytime, anywhere, it really doesn’t matter whether a customer shops in a company’s store or on its website or mobile app. It’s all retail. Today’s retailers sell to shoppers any way they want to buy.”

Economic improvements

NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz points out that hourly earnings were up year-over-year in 2016, while job gains were strong and unemployment stayed relatively low. All of this, combined with strong economic indicators, led to strong retail sales over the holiday season.

“The economy was clearly stronger in the fall and consumers were more active during the holiday season than they had been earlier in the year,” Kleinhenz said. “Economic indicators were up, retailers offered great deals, confidence improved and all of that empowered consumers to spend more.”

Holiday retail sales in November and December showed strong gains in 2016. The National Retail Federation (NRF) says sales increased year-over-year by 4% t...

The long-term impact of overspending on kids' holiday gifts

One survey finds that many parents draw from their retirement funds in an effort to check off their child's wish list

From pre-ordering the year’s most wanted toy to making sure Santa has been informed of every item on their child’s wish list, parents often do everything they can to make their children’s holiday dreams come true. But a new survey finds that parents often overextend themselves financially on the quest to fulfill their child’s holiday wish lists.

The survey, conducted by investment firm T. Rowe Price, finds that more than half of parents make it their mission to get everything on their child’s wish list no matter what the cost. In fact, 25% of parents draw funds from their 401(k)s or their emergency funds while checking off their child’s wish list.

Additionally, the survey found that 64% of parents agree with the statement, "I spent more over the holidays than I should have." The average amount parents spent on children between ages 8 to 14 was $422, although 34% of parents spent $500 or more.

But dipping into savings in order to make sure kids have the best holiday possible can have a long-term impact, says Marty Allenbaugh, a financial planner at T. Rowe Price.

Potential consequences

“Retirement accounts are meant to fund retirement. Emergency funds are meant to fund emergencies. Payday loans should be the last of last resorts. Nothing that comes wrapped in a ribbon is worth the consequence of bending these rules,” said Allenbaugh.

If a 35-year old parent pulls from his or her retirement savings to cover $500 in holiday spending, Allenbaugh says this could translate to a loss of nearly $6,000 at retirement.

Instead of risking your financial well-being by sparing no expense during the holidays, parents should consider teaching kids about the importance of prioritizing wants and making trade-offs. Doing so doesn’t necessarily mean your child will have a less magical holiday.

What to do instead

Teaching your child about money matters can be an investment in their future, says T. Rowe Price. Parents can find online games designed to teach kids about financial goal setting, spending versus saving, and other important financial concepts at MoneyConfidentKids.com.
Parents can also find tips on helping kids work within a budget and use monetary gifts wisely. For example, if kids receive money during the holidays, parents can propose saving some of the money and using the rest to buy a gift.
From pre-ordering the year’s most wanted toy to making sure Santa has been informed of every item on their child’s wish list, parents often do everything t...

How the presidential election is affecting consumers' holiday spending this year

The National Retail Federation says uncertain consumers are being more cautious

With November just around the corner, many consumers across the U.S. would normally be shopping up a storm for the upcoming holiday season. While that’s still sort of true this year, a report from the National Retail Federation shows that many are modifying their plans. Why, you might ask? Well, it has something to do with another important event happening in early November.

According to an NRF flash poll conducted earlier in October, a quarter of consumers said that the upcoming presidential election will impact their spending for the holiday season. Forty-three percent said that they would be more cautious with their spending due to the uncertainty of who will win the race.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says the campaign season has also forced retailers to delay advertising for holiday deals, which may have affected consumers.

“Everywhere you turn – whether you’re picking up a newspaper or watching television – political advertisements are taking up ad space that retailers typically use to get holiday shopping on the minds of consumers across the country,” he said.

However, NRF says that while spending will be down from last year, it will still be at a relatively high level. The association estimates that consumers will spend an average of $935.58 on gifts for others, self-spending, food, flowers, decorations, and greeting cards for the holidays. That’s a decrease of $17 from last year, but it’s the second highest total since 2004.

“Once the election has passed, we anticipate consumers will pull themselves out of the election doldrums and into the holiday spirit,” said Shay. “Retailers should prepare for a rush of consumers in the weeks following the presidential election as they get more economic and political certainty and are looking to take advantage of promotions and deals that are too good to pass up for their friends, family and even themselves.”

Self-spending increases

NRF also predicts that self-spending will increase this holiday season, as consumers try to take advantage of good deals. Poll results indicate that 58% of shoppers plan to buy something for themselves; NRF predicts that consumers will spend an average of $139.61 on these purchases, up 4% from last year.

“Many shoppers are taking the approach of ‘one for you, two for me’ this holiday season. Retailers are preparing by offering a wide array of merchandise and promotions – items shoppers want to give as great gifts at prices so good they want to buy for themselves too.”

Spending on others will still eclipse self-spending, though, as the NRF says consumers will spend an average of $588.90 on gifts for family and friends.

When it comes to where they’ll shop, consumers indicated that they’ll split their time pretty evenly between department stores (57%), online sources (57%), and discount stores (56%). Online shoppers will be looking to take advantage of free shipping as much as possible, though some will pay a little extra by opting for expedited shipping (17%) or same-day delivery (10%). 

With November just around the corner, many consumers across the U.S. would normally be shopping up a storm for the upcoming holiday season. While that’s st...

Holiday sales expected to grow by 3.6% this year

All told, the NRF expects consumers to spend $655.8 billion this holiday season

As we continue to march through October, consumers across the country are gearing up for the coming holiday season. In fact, many have already begun shopping for end-of-the-year events, and the National Retail Federation (NRF) believes that this will be a big year for retailers.

The organization made a prediction earlier this month that sales -- excluding those made in the automotive, gas, and restaurant spheres -- would be 3.6% higher in November and December than they were last year, accounting for $655.8 billion in spending. That mark would beat the current 10-year average of 2.5% growth, and would even put sales above the current 7-year growth average of 3.4%, the period of time since economic recovery began in 2009.

“All of the fundamentals are in a good place, giving strength to consumers and leading us to believe that this will be a very positive holiday season. . . This year hasn’t been perfect, starting with a long summer and unseasonably warm fall, but our forecast reflects the very realistic steady momentum of the economy and industry expectations,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

If the prediction proves to be true, it would be a continuance of positive growth for the economy during the holiday season; in 2015, sales increased by 3.2% over the previous year. Over the course of this year, consumers seemed more willing to pay down purchases with credit, which is a positive sign for future sales figures.

“Consumers have seen steady job and income gains throughout the year, resulting in continued confidence and the greater use of credit, which bodes well for spending throughout the holiday season,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. However, he notes that both global and domestic political uncertainty, along with unseasonably warm weather, could still negatively impact consumer confidence going forward.

In addition to a positive sales forecast, the NRF is predicting that seasonal employment will also stay on track in 2016. The organization believes retailers will hire between 640,000 and 690,000 workers this holiday season, in line with the 675,300 employees hired last year. Recent reports that Amazon will hire 120,000 holiday workers may pad those numbers even more.

As we continue to march through October, consumers across the country are gearing up for the coming holiday season. In fact, many have already begun shoppi...

Survey shows some consumers are already shopping for the holidays

Others are annoyed that the holiday season is starting so early

We've yet to leave September behind, but many consumers are already noticing prominent holiday displays in stores around the country.

This has prompted many consumers to get into the holiday spirit a little early and start shopping. A survey conducted by CreditCards.com shows that 14% of Americans have already started buying items for the holiday season. However, a scant 1% of consumers have finished their shopping already, which means retailers will have plenty of time to lay it on thick to attract customers.

The survey also found where, or through what medium, shoppers were likely to buy items this year. Out of 1,000 adults who responded, 58% said that they would do their shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. Twenty-one percent said they would do their shopping online, while 11% said they’d buy items with their mobile device; this last method is preferred mostly by Millennials, with one out of every five of them saying that’s the way they’ll likely shop this year.

Starting too soon?

But while some consumers are ready to embrace the holidays, there are many more who take issue with starting so early. The survey found that 73% of consumers agreed with the statement “it is annoying that the holiday shopping season has gotten earlier.” However, experts say that it makes sense from a business perspective.

“If the consumers are asking for holiday products earlier in the year, you are more than likely to see retailers start having a small assortment by late summer and build up their inventory as we move into the holiday season. It is natural that retailers are reacting to this trend,” said Ana Serafin Smith, a spokesperson for the National Retail Federation.

This doesn’t stop some people from griping anyway, though. Many have taken to the internet to voice their displeasure that they can’t get through autumn without being assaulted by images of sugarplums, festive decorations, or an imminent “winter wonderland.”

Creative dissent

One videographer named Jon Murray even went so far as to create a music video parody of One Republic’s popular song “It’s Too Late To Apologize.” His aptly named video, called “It’s Too Soon for Christmastime,” can be viewed below.

“I like having that month-and-a-half of time to get stuff together. Once you go longer than that, it’s not special. It starts losing the specialness of it, because it becomes a two- or three-month-long process,” said Murray.

But regardless of what Murray or others like him want, the holiday season is sure to ramp up in the month of October, so consumers should be prepared. 

We've yet to leave September behind, but many consumers are already noticing prominent holiday displays in stores around the country.This has prompted...

Consumers predicted to spend $8.4 billion for Halloween this year

It is the highest estimate in the 11-year history of the NRF survey

With the coming of autumn, many consumers are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Halloween. While spending for the holiday reached fairly high levels last year, the National Retail Federation is predicting that it will be eclipsed this year.

The organization’s annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, is predicting that consumers will spend $8.4 billion on Halloween purchases this year. That number reflects an all-time high for the survey’s 11-year history, and retailers are doing their best to get ready.

“After a long summer, families are excited to welcome the fall season celebrating Halloween. Retailers are preparing for the day by offering a wide variety of options in costumes, decorations and candy, while being aggressive with their promotions to capture the most out of this shopping event,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

$8.4 billion in spending

The analysts predict that spending on a per-person basis will increase to $82.93 this year, a jump of over $6 from last year’s total. In a breakdown of the numbers, the survey predicts that $3.1 billion will be spent on costumes, $2.5 billion on candy, $2.4 billion on decorations, and $390 million on greeting cards.

Consumers plan on celebrating the holidays in a variety of different ways this year. Results show that 71% of consumers plan to hand out candy, 49% will decorate their homes, 46% will carve pumpkins, 34% will throw or attend a party, 30% will take the kids out for trick-or-treating, and 21% will visit a haunted house. Sixteen percent will include their pets in festivities by dressing them up in a costume.

Where to shop?

Consumers will also have a number of choices of where to shop for holiday supplies this year. Forty-seven percent say they will visit discount stores for Halloween-related items, while 36% say they’ll look for supplies at specialty Halloween/costume stores. The remaining consumers will go to grocery stores/supermarkets (26%), department stores (23%), or shop online (22%).

“Consumers are eager to celebrate Halloween, especially given that eight in 10 Americans will shop by mid-October. That is the highest we have seen in the survey history,” said Prosper Insights Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “Americans will enjoy taking advantage of early-bird promotions both online and in-store as they kick off the fall season.”

The survey included responses from 6,791 consumers who were asked about their Halloween shopping plans from September 6-13. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 1.2%.

With the coming of autumn, many consumers are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Halloween. While spending for the holiday reached fairly high levels last...

Dads likely to get their due this year

Father’s Day spending is projected to hit a record high

Finally -- some respect!

According to the annual National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, consumers plan to spend more than ever on Father’s Day this year.

The survey conducted by Prosper Insight and Analytics, shows shoppers will spend an average of $125.92 for the holiday -- up more than $10 from last year, with total spending expected to reach $14.3 billion.

While that's the most in the survey’s 13-year history, it's a far cry from the Mother’s Day total of $21.4 billion.

What they'll buy

The survey finds consumers plan to spend $3.1 billion on special outings such as dinner, brunch, or other types of a “fun activity/experience” (given by 47%). Clothing (43%) and gift cards (41%) are tied at just under $2 billion each, while consumer electronics (20%) follow at $1.7 billion.

As with Mother’s Day, greeting cards are the most commonly purchased gift at 65% but account for only $833 million of projected spending. Other popular gifts include personal care, automotive accessories, books, music, home improvement/gardening supplies and sporting goods.

In addition, 22% of shoppers say they'll opt for a “gift of experience” such as tickets to a concert or a sporting event. Two in five millennials are planning to give an experience, significantly higher than older generations.

Where they shop

Thirty-eight percent of consumers will head to department stores in search of the perfect gift, 32% will shop online, and 27% will check out a discount store. Another 24% will go to a specialty store and 17% will do their shopping at a local small business.

Among smartphone owners, 30% will use them to research gift ideas, but only 16% will actually buy something. Tablets are used more frequently both to research (32%) and buy (19%).

More than half of those surveyed plan to buy for their father or stepfather (53%), while others will shop for their husband (28%) or son (9%).

The survey of 7,200 consumers, conducted May 2-10, has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Finally -- some respect!According to the annual National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, consumers plan to spend more than ever on Father’s Day this ye...

The rush is on to shower mom with gifts

Billions are expected to be spent on a variety of gifts

Jewelry, electronics, and special outings are high on the list of ways celebrate Mother’s Day this year.

The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics projects U.S. consumers will spend an average of $172.22 on mom -- almost the same as last year when they shelled out a record $172.63.

That would bring total spending to $21.4 billion, with 84.4% of consumers surveyed paying tribute to their special lady.

“It’s clear that Americans want to honor their mothers this Mother’s Day,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Whether it’s a special meal at her favorite restaurant, jewelry or a new smartphone, families are planning to indulge mom again this year.”

How and where they'll spend

According to the survey, consumers plan to spend $4.2 billion on jewelry (given by 35.3% of shoppers), $4.1 billion on special outings like dinner or brunch (55.2%), $2.4 billion on flowers (66.5%), $2.2 billion on gift cards (43.2%), $1.9 billion each on clothing (35.4%) and consumer electronics (13.8%), and $1.6 billion on personal services, like a day at the spa (22.5%). Greeting cards are projected to be the most-purchased gift (78.4%) but account for only $792 million of the projected spending.

Consumers were asked for the first time about “gifts of experience," like tickets to a sporting event or concert. According to the survey, 24.2% of consumers would like gifts of this nature and 22.3% plan on giving such a gift.

A plurality (33%) of shoppers will head to department stores and 28.7% to specialty stores and another 23.1% will patronize a local small business.

But not everyone will make it to a store: 27.3 % will shop online and 29.6% will research gift ideas on their phones. Of those who use their phone to research gifts, 15.5% will use them to make a purchase.

“Mother’s Day is the time when millions of Americans find special ways to express their love and gratitude for mom,” Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “While many will spend a little more than usual to pamper her, some consumers will provide unique experience gifts for the entire family to enjoy together.”

The survey of 7,000 consumers was conducted April 5-13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.  

The complete survey is available here.

Jewelry, electronics, and special outings are high on the list of ways celebrate Mother’s Day this year.The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual s...

Retailers hope for a boost from St. Patrick’s Day

Spending may be down from last year, but many plan to celebrate the Irish holiday

The wearin' o' the green may not boost the spendin' o' the green.

The National Retail Federation's (NRF) annual St. Patrick’s Day Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insight and Analytics, finds that more than 125 million consumers who plan to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day will spend an average of $35.37 per person – compared with last year’s $36.52.

Total spending for the Irish holiday is expected to reach $4.4 billion based on the U.S. population of those 18 and older.

“Retailers expect to see a nice boost in sales as consumers head to stores looking for apparel, decorations, food and beverages to help make their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations special,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “With the winter holidays behind us and spring flowers starting to bloom, St. Patrick’s Day provides a perfect opportunity for Americans to get together to celebrate with friends and family.”

Celebration plans

According to the survey, 82.1% of St. Patrick’s Day revelers will wear green to show their Irish pride, 31.3% plan to make a special dinner, 28.7% will head to a party at a bar or restaurant, and 21.1% will attend a private party. In addition, 22.8 % plan to decorate their homes or offices in an Irish theme.

According to the survey, 56.5% of those celebrating will purchase food and beverages, 28% will buy apparel or accessories, 23.3% will buy decorations, and 17.2% will buy candy.

The survey asked for the first time where consumers will make their St. Patrick’s Day purchases. More than a third -- 36.2% -- plan to do so at a grocery store, 30.4% at discount stores, and 20.8% at bars and restaurants.

“St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a holiday for giving gifts, but it is a time for inexpensive and fun celebrations that make it easy for consumers of any age and on any budget to take part in the festivities,” Prosper’s Pam Goodfellow said. “Whether they’re heading to a parade, cooking an Irish meal or joining friends at a bar or restaurant, consumers will take the opportunity to get festive and celebrate.”

The holiday is most popular among individuals 18-24 years old with 70.1% celebrating. However, those 25-34 years old will be the biggest spenders at an average $42.58.

The survey of 7,108 consumers was conducted February 2-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

The wearin' o' the green may not boost the spendin' o' the green.The National Retail Federation's (NRF) annual St. Patrick’s Day Spending Survey conduc...

Some pre-holiday shopping advice

Experts weigh in on when and how to shop

Retailers are a bit nervous in the weeks leading up to the start of the 2015 holiday shopping season. It remains to be seen how consumers will react.

Will they spend the money they've saved this year on gasoline? Or, will they use that money to pay existing bills and add to savings?

The evidence so far suggests shoppers will be careful with money and look for bargains. Heading into the holiday season, sales have been lackluster and even the National Retail Federation predicts only a modest increase in sales over last year.

“This provides opportunities for retailers and brands to continue to drive sales for a strong year-end finish,” said Lance Eliot, of Interactions, a retail marketing service. 'It’s not surprising that retailers plan for Black Friday sales to make up for any profit shortfalls but how they enable those sales may take some retailers by surprise.”

Buying before Halloween

Eliot cites a report predicting one-third of shoppers will begin buying Christmas gifts before Halloween. For those who are trying to save on holiday purchases, Bryan Leach, CEO of Ibotta, a shopping app, says it will pay to shop early.

“Don’t wait until December to begin buying all your gifts,” he said. “Start scanning sales and stocking up now, since stores typically clear inventory from the previous season and year to fill their shelves with brand new products.”

He says it's also critical to make a budget. By setting a budget now and already having gifts in mind, you’ll be able to scope rebates, coupons, and deals over the next few months, instead of spending a fortune in last minute panic buying.

He also says it will help save money if you plan holiday meals well in advance.

Saving on meals

“Holiday shopping doesn’t just mean gifts under the tree, but a season full of hor’dourves, cocktail hours, and tasty dinners spent with family and friends,” Leach said. “Avoid unnecessary stress over last minute menus by picking out recipes in advance and purchasing any dry goods that you think you may need.”

Meanwhile, the bargains have already started. BestBlackFriday.com reports Sony has cut the price of its popular PlayStation 4 game system to $349.99, which is a discount of $50 from the usual price of $399.99. The discount will remain in place thoughout the holiday season.

Retailers are a bit nervous in the weeks leading up to the start of the 2015 holiday shopping season. It remains to be seen how consumers will react.Wi...

National Retail Federation forecasts so-so holiday sales

Online sales should play an important role

There may not be as much ho-ho-hoing among retailers this Christmas season as there was last year.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) says it expects sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas, and restaurant sales) to rise 3.7% to $630.5 billion. While that's significantly higher than the 10-year average of 2.5%, it doesn't keep pace with 2014, when sales were up 4.1%.

In addition, the NRF is forecasting online sales to increase between 6 and 8% to as much as $105 billion.

Holiday sales in 2015 are expected to represent approximately 19% of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion.

“With several months of solid retail sales behind us, we’re heading into the all-important holiday season fully expecting to see healthy growth,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “However, while economic indicators have improved in several areas, Americans remain somewhat torn between their desire and their ability to spend; the fact remains consumers still have the weight of the economy on their minds, further explaining the complex retail spending environment we are seeing right now. We expect families to spend prudently and deliberately, though still less constrained than what we saw even two years ago.”

The NRF also expects seasonal employment to grow with retailers hiring between 700,000 and 750,000 seasonal workers. Last year saw the addition of 714,000 new holiday positions.

The NRF’s holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model using several indicators including consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases.

It also includes the non-store category (direct-to-consumer, kiosks and online sales.)  

There may not be as much ho-ho-hoing among retailers this Christmas season as there was last year. The National Retail Federation (NRF) says it expects sa...

NRF: Halloweeners to turn out in big numbers this year

Spending on spooky stuff is projected to reach $6.9 billion

It's party time! Well, next month anyway, and a lot of people plan to be a part of it.

The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Halloween Consumer Spending Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, finds that more than 157 million people in the U.S. plan to celebrate Halloween this year.

But they won't be spending as much to do it as they did last year. The survey says the average person celebrating will spend $74.34, compared with $77.52 last in 2014. Total spending on Halloween is expected to reach $6.9 billion.

“After a long summer, consumers are eager to embrace fall and all of the celebrations that come with it,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “With a bit more confidence in their finances and still enjoying the perks of low gas prices, we expect those celebrating Halloween this year will look for several different activities to do with their family and friends. Retailers of all shapes and sizes will welcome millions of shoppers with promotions on candy and decorations and of course, costumes.”

Costumes get the lion's share

Consumers celebrating Halloween plan to spend an average of $27.33 on costumes for the whole family for a total of $2.5 billion on store-bought, homemade, large, and small costumes. Most of that will be for adult costumes ($1.2 billion), with $950 million for children’s costumes and $350 million for their pets. It’s estimated that 68 million people will dress up this Halloween and another 20 million pet owners will dress up their furry friends.

Nine in ten (93.7%) Halloween shoppers will buy candy, spending a total of $2.1 billion, and an additional 33.5% will buy greeting cards, laying out a total of $330 million. Two in five celebrants (44.8%) plan to decorate their home or yard, meaning there’s no question consumers will see their fair share of pumpkins, hay bales, and even life-size Minions and black cats strewn across their neighborhoods. The average person planning to buy decorations will spend $20.34, with total spending expected to reach $1.9 billion.

When it comes to how people plan to celebrate, most will hand out candy (67.8%) or dress in costume (43.5%). There will be no shortage of jack-o-lanterns lighting up windows this year, though, with 41% of people planning to carve pumpkins. Nearly one-third (31.5%) plan to throw or attend a party with friends and family.

Shopping till they drop

More consumers have decided to head to stores or shop online early to pick out costumes and decorations. More than one-third (34.1%) will start their Halloween shopping before the first of October, compared with 32.1% last year -- 40.9% will get started in the first half of the month and one-quarter (25%) will wait for the final weeks of October.

“People shouldn’t be too surprised when they see Halloween candy and decorations available in stores as early as September first,” Prosper Insights Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “Given that more than a third of Americans enjoy taking advantage of early-bird deals to kick off their fall celebrations, it seems there’s plenty of appetite among consumers to enjoy a perfectly ‘frightful’ Halloween.”

Similar to past years, the majority of consumers will find inspiration for their costumes online (31.4%) or will head to costume shops and retail stores (26.8%) before they make a final decision. Pinterest continues to grow in popularity among those looking for costume inspiration (13.3%), as this year’s percentage is nearly double the amount who used the site for inspiration just three years ago (7.1%).

Millennials remain the drivers of Pinterest traffic around Halloween though, with 24.9% of 18-24 year-olds and 23.7% of 25-34 year-olds using the site for costume inspiration.

It's party time! Well, next month anyway, and a lot of people plan to be a part of it. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Halloween Consumer Spending ...

Survey: Father’s Day spending to hit $12.7 billion

“Experience gifts” get the lion's share of the bucks

When it comes to spending, consumer outlays ($21.2 billion) for Mother's Day far outdistance Father's Day. Still, dad does okay.

According to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) 2015 Father’s Day Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, spending for dad is expected to reach $12.7 billion. The survey also finds the average person will shell out $115.57 about the same as last year, with 75.4% of consumers saing they plan to celebrate Father’s Day.

“After a less than stellar first half of the year, retailers are ready to welcome the warm weather and the millions of shoppers that come along with it and kick off the summer spending season just in time for Father’s Day,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Spending on grilling and patio necessities, pool gear, sporting goods, apparel and other gift and seasonal merchandise could be the positive stepping stone retailers need heading into the second half of the year.”

What does he want, what does he need?

When it comes to gifts for dad, 4 in 10 (39.7%) will purchase apparel items such as a new dress shirt or necktie and spend a total $1.7 billion overall. Another 43.3% will spend a total of $2.6 billion for so-called “experience gifts” such as tickets to a ballgame or a special meal with the family.

The survey also found that 1 in 5 (19.7%) shoppers will pick out new gadgets such as a tablet or smartphone, totaling $1.6 billion. Additionally, 4 in 10 (39%) gift buyers will opt to let dad pick his own gift and will get him a gift card, spending a total of $1.8 billion. Six in 10 (62.2%) consumers will thank dad with a greeting card and at an overall cost of more than $777 million.

Loved ones will also spend on home improvement or gardening supplies ($710 million), new tools or appliances ($668 million), personal care items ($684 million), sporting goods or leisure items ($665 million) and books or CDs ($538 million).

Where to shop

Online shoppers plan to spend an average $157 -- more than the typical Father's Day shopper -- and nearly 4 in 10 plan to use their smartphones to research products and compare prices.

Consumers will look all over for gifts, with most people planning to shop at department stores (36.4%), while others will shop online (29.2%) and at discount stores (25.2%); Nearly 17% will shop local at a small business.

“After splurging on mom and graduates this year and recognizing that dad is a little more laid back when it comes to celebrations and gifts, consumers will keep spending similar to about what they spent last year on Father’s Day,” said Prosper’s Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “Regardless, they’ll still find a way to make sure that dad has a special day, whether they’re taking advantage of sales and promotions or treating him to an experience he’ll never forget.”

More than half of those surveyed are planning to buy for their father or stepfather (51.8%), while others will shop for their husband (27.6%) or son (8.9%) this Father’s Day.

When it comes to spending, consumer outlays ($21.2 billion) for Mother's Day far outdistance Father's Day. Still, dad does okay. According to the National...

Moms and retailers expected to do well this Mother's Day

Spending is projected to be at a 12-year high

Mother's Day is less than 2 weeks off and you know what that means: a spending splurge on things like jewelry, flowers, gift cards, brunch and apparel.

According to National Retail Federation's (NRF) Mother’s Day Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, consumers will shell out an average of $172.63 on mom this year. That's nearly $10 more than last year and the highest amount in the survey’s 12-year history. Total spending is expected to reach $21.2 billion.

“We’re encouraged by the positive shift we’ve seen in spending on discretionary and gift items from consumers so far this year, certainly boding well for retailers across all spectrums who are planning to promote Mother’s Day specials, including home improvement, jewelry, apparel and other specialty retailers as well as restaurants,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

Running the gamut

When it comes to gifts, most will pick up a greeting card for mom (80%), spending more than $786 million, and more than two-thirds (67.2%) will buy flowers, to the tune of $2.4 billion. Shoppers also plan on giving mom apparel and clothing items (35.8%), spending more than $1.9 billion, versus $1.7 billion last year.

Families will also surprise the matriarch with a special brunch or activity ($3.8 billion), electronic items like a new smartphone or e-reader ($1.8 billion), personal services such as a spa day ($1.5 billion), housewares or gardening tools ($890 million) and books and CDs ($480 million).

Looking for a “wow” reaction mom, 34.2% of Mother’s Day shoppers are planning to splurge on jewelry, spending a survey high of $4.3 billion for the special day.

How we shop

Online shoppers plan to spend an average $252 -- higher than the typical Mother's Day shopper -- and more than 4 in 10 plan to use their smartphones to research products and compare prices.

The survey shows that 18- to 24-year-olds who own smartphones and tablets are most likely to use them to research products and compare prices for gifts (46%), and are most likely to use their tablets to purchase a gift (30.2%). But this age group won’t necessarily be the biggest spenders; 25- to 34-year-olds plan to spend the most on mom -- an average of $244.32; 18- to 24-year-olds will spend an average of $214.81.

Many people know that a gift card could go a long way: Two in five (44.2%) will give mom a gift card, spending more than $2.2 billion.

Most shoppers will head to department stores (33.4%), while others will shop at specialty stores (28.2%) or discount stores (24.8%). With shoppers ready to get out of the house after a long winter, fewer shoppers will be shopping online this year (25% vs. 29% last year.)

The majority of shoppers plan to buy for their mother or stepmother (62.5%), while 23.2% will shop for their wife, 9.8% will shop for their daughter, 8.9% will shop for their sister and 7.4% plan to splurge on their grandmother.

Mother's Day is less than 2 weeks off and you know what that means: a spending splurge on things like jewelry, flowers, gift cards, brunch and apparel. ...

Consumers hit the stores for Easter goodies

Candy and new spring apparel top shoppers' lists

With Easter just days away, 80% of consumers are eagerly looking forward to a fun, family-filled holiday, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Easter Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

The survey found that the average person celebrating Easter will spend $140.62 -- slightly more than last year’s $137.46. Total spending for Easter, which includes purchases of apparel, decorations, gifts, candy, food, flowers and more, is expected to reach $16.4 billion.

“Easter will be the perfect segue into spring for both consumers and retailers who have longed for warmer weather for quite some time,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As one of the busiest times of year for several retail sectors and as shelves begin filling with both traditional spring and holiday merchandise, retailers are looking forward to welcoming shoppers with attractive promotions on home goods, garden equipment and traditional Easter items.”

New duds

Consumers, the survey says, will use Easter as the perfect opportunity to spruce up their spring wardrobes, with 45% of those celebrating buying clothing -- spending more than $2.9 billion on bright colored apparel items for themselves and their families.

However, more people plan to buy food for the holiday: 85.7% will purchase food for a family meal or other festivity, spending more than $5.3 billion on Easter fare.

Children and sweet-toothed adults will also purchase candy this Easter: 87.1% of those celebrating say they will buy candy, spending more than $2.2 billion on jelly beans, chocolate bunnies and flavorful chick-shaped Peeps.

Consumers this holiday will also spend $2.4 billion on gifts, $1.1 billion on flowers, $998 million on decorations and $695 million on greeting cards.

Where we shop

With a laundry list of items to buy, 58.6% will head to discount stores to purchase their holiday merchandise. Another 40.7 will shop at department stores, while 23.8% plan to shop at a local or small business. Additionally, 21.8% will head to a specialty store like a florist or jewelry store and 18.8 percent will shop online.

Busy Easter shoppers will take advantage of their mobile devices to help them find meal items, gifts, candy and more. According to the survey, 21.4% of those who own smartphones and are planning to celebrate Easter will use their phone to research products and/or compare prices, and another 13.5% will purchase items with their smartphone.

Nearly one-quarter (24.9%) of tablet owners will research products and/or compare prices for their Easter needs on tablets; 16.6% will purchase something via their tablet.

What we're doing

For the first time, NRF asked consumers about the activities they are planning for Easter Sunday, and the survey found many of the traditional aspects of the holiday will be in play this year. Nearly 6 in 10 (57.4%) plan to visit friends and family, half (50.8%) will go to church and 12.9% plan to open gifts.

Not forgetting the little ones, 3 in 10 (30.9%) adults will plan a special Easter egg hunt for the children in their lives. Additionally, 15% of those celebrating will opt out of doing dishes and head to a restaurant to celebrate the holiday and 24.1% will surf the Web throughout the day.

“Easter remains a beloved affair for consumers young and old, and this year it looks like families are ready to dig into their budgets to make the most of the special day,” said Prosper’s Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “The warm weather should help fuel some interest in celebrations, especially given the record-breaking winter much of the country experienced the last several months.”

With Easter just days away, 80% of consumers are eagerly looking forward to a fun, family-filled holiday, according to the National Retail Federation’s Eas...

Consumers prepare to say “good-bye” to winter with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations

Average spending this year will be a little higher than in 2014

Tired of winter yet? Silly question.

While March 17 is a couple of days shy of spring, St. Patrick's Day is close enough and a good reason to celebrate the approaching change of seasons.

According to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) St. Patrick’s Day Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, nearly 127 million people are planning to celebrate the traditional Irish holiday. To do so, they'll spend an average of $36.52 on green garb, festive food and more 74 cents more than they laid out last year.

Total spending for the holiday is expected to reach $4.6 billion.

“Consumers are ready to shed their winter blues and welcome spring’s arrival with St. Patrick’s Day celebrations,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Falling at the perfect time of year -- just as temperatures begin to rise -- retailers are hoping St. Patrick’s Day will also draw the attention of those looking for traditional spring merchandise as consumers take the opportunity to stock up for warm months ahead with home improvement, garden and apparel purchases.”

Wearin' of the green

The survey found that more than 104 million people (82.4%) of those celebrating, plan to wear green to make sure the luck of the Irish is with them this year; 28.9 million, or 22.8% plan to decorate their homes with shamrocks, leprechauns and pots of "gold."

Consumers also plan to let loose with their friends and family this year. According to the survey, 29.2% -- 37 million people -- plan to celebrate at a bar or restaurant and 19% (24 million consumers) plan to attend a private party; an additional 30% plan to make a special dinner to commemorate the Irish holiday.

Adults ages 25-34 will do the most celebrating with 42.2% planning to head to a bar or restaurant to take part in the festivities. This age group also plans to spend the most at an average of $41.69; close behind are young adults age 18-24, who plan to spend $38.55 on average.

Tired of winter yet? Silly question. While March 17 is a couple of days shy of spring, St. Patrick's Day is close enough and a good reason to celebrate t...

Romeos and Juliets will be shelling out more for Valentine’s Day gifts this year

Jewelry and candy are expected to be among the top gifts

Spending on Valentine’s Day gifts is expected to rise this year.

According to the National Retail Federation’s ( NRF)Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, the average person celebrating Valentine’s Day will spend $142.31 on candy, flowers, apparel and more, compared with $133.91 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $18.9 billion -- a survey high.

“It’s encouraging to see consumers show interest in spending on gifts and Valentine’s Day-related merchandise -- a good sign for consumer sentiment as we head into 2015,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Hoping to draw in eager shoppers, retailers will offer unique promotions on gifts, meal options at restaurants and even experiences.”

Candy, Jewelry and flowers

While most (53.2%) plan to buy candy for the sweet holiday, spending a total of $1.7 billion, one in five (21.1%) plans to buy jewelry for a total of $4.8 billion -- the highest amount seen since NRF began tracking spending on Valentine’s gifts in 2010.

Additionally 37.8% will buy flowers, spending a total of $2.1 billion, and more than one-third (35.1%) will spend on plans for a special night out, including movies and restaurants, totaling $3.6 billion. Celebrants will also spend nearly $2 billion on clothing and $1.5 billion on the gift that keeps on giving: gift cards.

Spending to increase

The survey found nine in 10 (91%) plan to treat their significant others/spouses to something special for the consumer holiday, with plans to spend an average of $87.94 on them -- versus $78.09 last year. Additionally, 58.7% will spend an average of $26.26 on other family members and $6.30 on children’s classmates/teachers.

A record one in five (21.2%) say they will include their pets in their Valentine’s Day plans, looking to spend a mere $5.28 on average -- which equates to a whopping $703 million on pint-sized gifts of all varieties.

Eyes on the wallet

Discount (35.2%) and department stores (36.5%) will be among the most visited locations for those looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, as will specialty stores (19.4%) and florists (18.7%). One-quarter (25.1%) say they will shop online and 13.3 percent will shop at a local or small business to find something unique for their loved one.

It seems women are in for the biggest treat this Valentine’s Day. Men will spend nearly double what women plan to spend ($190.53 vs. $96.58 on average, respectively.) Additionally, adults 25-to-34 will outspend other age groups at an average of $213.04; 35-to-44 year olds will spend an average of $176.21 and 18-to-24 year olds will spend an average of $168.95.

Spending on Valentine’s Day gifts is expected to rise this year. According to the National Retail Federation’s ( NRF)Valentine’s Day Consumer Spending Sur...

Disney’s “Frozen” takes the toy crown from Barbie

The doll’s 11-year run has come to an end

Barbie has learned -- as we all do -- that all good things come to an end.

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) latest Holiday Top Toys Survey, one in five parents (20%) plan to buy Disney’s Frozen merchandise for the little girls in their life this holiday season , beating out the top reigning Barbie (16.8%) for the first time in the survey’s 11-year history.

LEGO toys are number one again for boys this year (14.2%).

“Parents will not have to go far to find good deals on the toys their children have put at the top of their lists,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Retailers have spent weeks preparing for the holiday rush to make sure that the season’s hottest toys are both easy to find in stores and online, and competitively priced.”

Toys on top

According to NRF’s 2014 holiday consumer survey, 42% of shoppers plan to buy toys as gifts this holiday season. For girls, dolls hold the top spots at #2 (Barbie), #3 (generic), #4 (Monster High Dolls) and #5 (American Girl), while boys have made it clear they still want cars and trucks #2.

Boys and girls alike have requested tablets/Apple iPads from mom and dad this holiday season (girls #7 and boys #10). Other familiar items will be awaiting children, including My Little Pony (#8 for girls) and Hot Wheels and Xbox One (#5 and #6 for boys.)

“Barbie has been the top girls’ toy for over a decade, but it is no surprise that Disney’s Frozen has taken the top seat as children have had it on the mind as far back as Halloween,” said Prosper’s Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow.

2014 Top Toys for Boys

  1. LEGO
  2. Cars & Trucks
  3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  4. Video Games
  5. Hot Wheels
  6. Xbox One
  7. PlayStation 4
  8. Transformers
  9. Remote Controlled Vehicles
  10. Marvel Action Figures (T)/Tablet/Apple iPad(T)

2014 Top Toys for Girls

  1. Disney Frozen
  2. Barbie
  3. Dolls (generic)
  4. Monster High Dolls
  5. American Girl
  6. LEGO
  7. Tablet/Apple iPad
  8. My Little Pony
  9. Disney Doc McStuffins
  10. Apparel

Barbie has learned -- as we all do -- that all good things come to an end. According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) latest Holiday Top Toys Surv...

Toys to get the lion's share of spending this holiday season

Online purchasing continues to increase

With all the emphasis on kids and Santa Claus, it should come as no surprise that there's a lot of toy shopping at this time of year.

According to The Harris Poll, just over half of all shoppers (51%) plan to buy toys as gifts this year -- nearly consistent with last year's intent (50%). And, as you might expect, parents of a child under the age of 18 are twice as likely to purchase toys as those without children under the age of 18 (82% vs. 41%, respectively).

Those with young children (age 9 or under) or tweens (ages 10-12) are more likely than those with teens (ages 13-17) to plan to purchase toys this holiday season (90% & 88% vs. 67%, respectively).

The state of spending

Just 18% of those who will purchase toys intend to spend more than they did in the previous year. This number has decreased steadily over the past three years (23% in 2012, 20% in 2013, & 18% in 2014). While nearly half of all toy purchasers (48%) plan to spend the same amount on toys as they did last year, nearly one-third (31%) plan to spend less.

Looking specifically at parents who plan to purchase toys, one-quarter (25%) intend to spend more on toys compared with last year; however, one-third (33%) intend to spend less.

What's under the tree?

So what can kids expect to unwrap this year? Many can anticipate the gift of the written word, with half of parents planning to purchase children's books. Games for consoles are a close second at 47%, and 42% will pick up some arts and crafts supplies. Among the least popular toys are sports equipment and handheld electronic games, with only about one-quarter of parents purchasing these (24% & 25%, respectively).

Those without children under the age of 18 are more diverse in their purchase intentions; however, children's books remain the most popular with 34% planning to purchase. Just 9% plan to purchase the big ticket item of game consoles, while parents are 3 times more likely to pick up this item (27%).

Where to shop

Large discount stores remain the most popular supplier for toys, with 45% of shoppers planning to buy at these locations. However, their popularity has decreased slightly from 2013 (47%), with a cumulative 6-point drop since 2012 (51%). With 37% of purchasers planning to do their shopping online, this outlet continues to increase year over year, seeing a jump of 4 points since 2013 (33%) and a cumulative 10-point jump since 2012 (27%).

National toy store retail chains and local, privately owned specialty toy stores are likely to be the least popular toy merchants this holiday season, with just 11% and 4% of purchasers planning to utilize these outlets, respectively.

Other “family” members

Six-in-10 people are pet owners, with a large majority owning either a dog or a cat (65% & 53% of pet owners, respectively). Many pet owners don't plan on forgetting their furry friends this holiday season. 37% of consumers -- and over half of pet owners (52%) -- are planning to purchase toys, treats or other products as gifts for a pet this year.

In fact, 13% of those who do not have a pet still plan to purchase toys for one this season.

With all the emphasis on kids and Santa Claus, it should come as no surprise that there's a lot of toy shopping at this time of year. According to The Ha...

Holding out for hot holiday deals

A new survey finds bargain-hunters may be holding back a bit

Despite all the TV commercials pushing holiday merchandise, it appears that not everybody is hitting the malls early.

The new Holiday Consumer Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics for the National Retail Federation (NRF) finds 45.6% of those asked say they haven’t started shopping yet -- relatively flat with last years’ 46.2%. Still, it's the lowest in the survey’s 7-year history.

“Many consumers are going to wait and see how great the promotions will be later this season before making any commitments,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Retailers have reacted to this ‘wait and see’ mentality with fewer October deals and a much quieter entry into November, when we’ll start to see retailers ramp up with offers for exclusive merchandise, deep discounts and unique online savings opportunities.”

Procrastinators and early birds

The survey found that while slightly fewer people haven’t started shopping yet, 20.6% have finished 10 % or less of their shopping, while 12.4% have completed about one-quarter of their lists; 2.2% are saying they can sit back and relax as they have already finished their shopping for friends and family.

Unsurprisingly, apparel, toys and video games will be popular gift items this year. The survey found 6 in 10 (60.9%) will buy clothing and accessories, 46.3% will buy books, CDs, DVDs and video games, and two in five (42%) will buy toys.

Likely having loaded up on wearable technology items and new smartphones throughout the year, slightly fewer people will buy electronic items as gifts (30.7% vs. 33%). Some people are in for a real treat: 24% of shoppers will buy jewelry for a friend or family member -- the highest percent since 2006.

Gift cards continue as a favorite for both shoppers and recipients as 60% will buy gift cards, similar to the 59.2% who planned to do so last year. In an October NRF survey, 60% of shoppers also said they’d like to receive gift cards, marking gift cards the most requested gift item for 8 years in a row.

What to buy

Shoppers look for inspiration for gifts from every corner, and with the innovative creation of retailers’ wish lists, many consumers this season will take to the web to point loved ones to specific, perfect gift ideas. The survey found 32.1% say they will look for inspiration on wish lists, compared with 28.8% last year. Others will conduct online searches (47.7%), discuss options with family and friends (41.7%), check out advertising circulars (34.3%) and email ads (20.1%), and even search Facebook (10.6%).

"Retailers make holiday shoppers’ job easy with so many options to find the perfect gift, and with little room to waste on gifts that don't make sense, consumers today want to be sure what they buy is used and enjoyed by their loved ones," said Prosper's Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. "On the hunt for bargains, quality merchandise that is unique and even exclusive, gift givers this holiday season will seek out both practical and indulgent gift items, though being sure not to break the bank."

When it comes to how shoppers will pay for their gifts, nearly four in 10 (38%) will use their credit card, the most in the survey’s history and up nearly 10% from last year; one in five (21.6%) will use cash and 38.4% will use their debit or check card. Just 2.1% will use a check -- the lowest in the survey’s history.

When broken down by age group, young adults (18-24) are the least likely to use credit to pay for gifts at just 17.7%, and 65+ are the most likely to use credit cards at 56%. Nearly half of 18-24 year olds (48.9%) plan to use their debit or check card to buy gift items.  

Despite all the TV commercials pushing holiday merchandise, it appears that not everybody is hitting the malls early. The new Holiday Consumer Spending Su...

Happy holidays for consumers and retailers?

A new Deloitte survey suggests shoppers are optimistic this year

Consumers are showing more optimism about the economy and that, according to Deloitte’s 29th annual holiday survey, is kindling holiday cheer with shoppers planning to spend more.

Among the survey's findings:

Holiday spending to increase

  • Total holiday spending is predicted to increase by 13% -- to $1,299 per household, and includes gifts, socializing away from home, entertaining at home, non-gift clothing for family or self, home/holiday furnishings, and any other holiday-related spending not in the other categories.
  • Spending on just gifts is expected to rise by 9% -- to $458 this year, from $421 last year.
  • Consumers who shop across store, mobile and online channels are expected to spend 66% more on gifts than those shopping stores only: $592 versus $357.
  • The number of gifts consumers expect to purchase increased to 13.4, compared with 12.9 in 2013, but nearly 10 gifts less than the high of 23.1 in 2007.

The Internet and discount/value stores rule

  • The Internet and discount/value stores once again rank as the top shopping venues this year, with the Internet No. 1 for the second straight year. Nearly half (45%) plan to shop online, followed closely by 44% at discount/value stores.
  • In-store purchases are expected to account for 52% of the holiday budget.
  • Consumers expect to make an average of five (4.6) trips to traditional “brick-and-mortar” stores during the shopping season.
  • Clothing remains the top item consumers plan to purchase as a gift, cited by 45% of respondents; gift cards (43%) continue to hold the No. 2 position, but are down from a high of 69% in 2007.
  • The top two gifts people would like to receive are gift cards (37%) followed by cash (35%).
  • More than two-thirds (68%) plan to “shop local” this year, with the No. 1 reason, “To support the local economy”; and the No. 2 reason, “To find one-of-a-kind gifts.” In the survey, “local retail stores” are defined as small businesses, independent retailers or boutique shops which are not part of national chains.

Data breach concerns

  • More than half (55%) indicate they are concerned about the protection of their personal data when shopping online and 42% have the same concerns in-store.
  • Though there is concern for personal data when shopping both online and in-store, 56% indicated they will continue to shop at retailers that have experienced a data breach.
  • Nearly four in 10 (36%) percent said, “I am more likely to shop at a retailer who provides me education surrounding the security of my personal data.”

A busy December in the works

  • Forty-three percent of respondents will do a majority of their shopping in December or later -- an increase of 6% from 2013.
  • Almost seven in 10 (68%) indicated they will go online to look at an item, then go to a store to see it and buy it in the store (“webrooming”).
  • Nearly half (49 percent) indicated they will go to a store to look at an item, then search online for the best price and then purchase online (“showrooming”).
  • Roughly three-quarters (74%) of shoppers say they will be influenced by coupons/promotions.
  • Consumers plan to take advantage of a number of retailer offerings this year, including free shipping (68%), free returns (52%), price matching (45%), extended holiday hours (35%), order online for pick up in-store (34%) and free layaway (16%).
  • Nearly half (47%) of shoppers say they do not rely on Black Friday as much as they used to for holiday shopping.

“With the short, 27-day shopping stretch between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, retailers need to be sharp with their promotional timing, inventory management and distribution capabilities,” said According to Alison Paul, vice chairman and retail sector leader at Deloitte. “Retailers that can fulfill orders from both online distribution centers and store inventories, for example, may be more nimble and poised to respond quickly to pockets of high demand for certain gifts -- and ensure timely holiday deliveries.”

Paul also notes that despite concerns about the security of personal information, shoppers also appear resilient to reported data breaches and desire to still shop with affected retailers. “Retailers should benefit from this optimism and expression of loyalty,” she notes, “but need to stay vigilant as a spike in transactional activity around the holiday season comes with increased vulnerability.”

Consumers are showing more optimism about the economy and that, according to Deloitte’s 29th annual holiday survey ,is kindling holiday cheer with shoppers...

Gift givers to spend more this holiday season, survey finds

More than 40% of shopping is expected to be done online

With a little more than 9 weeks to go before Christmas, the nation's retailers have visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads.

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, the average person celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa and/or Hanukkah will spend $804.42 -- up nearly 5% from last year’s $767.27.

“Retailers have plenty of reasons to be optimistic this holiday season, and one of the most important pieces of evidence is the confidence holiday shoppers are exuding in their plans to spend on gifts for their loved ones,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “While not completely throwing caution to the wind, Americans’ frugal spending habits will still be visible this holiday season as they continue to rely on discounts and sales and comparison shop. Consumers will put retailers to the test when it comes to the product mix and value companies can offer today’s shopper who is focused on much more than just price.”

Increases across the board

The survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, found consumers will spend an average of $459.87 on gifts for their family up 6.5% from $432.00 last year, and $80.00 on gifts for friends, up $5 from last year. Those celebrating the holidays will also spend more on gifts for their co-workers ($26.23 vs. $24.52 in 2013), and others like their babysitter and even their pets ($30.43 vs. $26.65).

Spending on traditional items such as decorations and food will remain flat: According to the survey, consumers will spend an average of $104.74 on food, $53.68 on decorations and $29.18 on greeting cards and $20.30 on flowers.

One of the more popular trends in recent years -- so-called self-gifting -- will decrease this year as shoppers opt to shift their budgets towards spending on others: Nearly 57% of consumers say they plan to take advantage of sales and discounts to purchase non-gift items for themselves or others, and will spend an average of $126.68, versus $134.77 last year.

A surge in online and mobile shopping

Retailers are expecting more consumers to shop online for their gifts and other needs. According to the survey, 56% plan to shop online -- up from 4.5% from last year and the most in the survey’s 13-year history. Additionally, the average person plans to do 44.4% of her shopping online -- the most since NRF first asked in 2006.

Looking for great prices and value as they shop around for holiday items, many consumers will visit discount (61.9%), department (59.7%) and grocery stores (51.2%). Others will head to clothing or accessories stores (36.7%), electronics (30.8%), drug (19.2%) and craft and fabric stores (18.8%).

As mobile grows in use and scope, consumers this holiday season will turn to their on-the-go devices for a variety of reasons. The survey found most smartphone owners (55.7%) will use their device in some fashion, compared with 53.8% last year. Specifically, 35.8% will research products/prices -- the highest amount in the 4 years NRF has been asking. Nearly one-quarter (23.9%) will redeem coupons and 19.1% will actually purchase items -- another survey high.

Almost two-thirds (63.2%) of tablet owners will use their device to research and purchase holiday items, the same as last year. Nearly half (47.4%) will research products and one-third (33%) will purchase items.

Digital payments

For the first time, NRF asked consumers about their comfort level using a smartphone or tablet to pay for merchandise at a store check-out counter. According to the survey, 27.4% said they would be somewhat or very comfortable; however, two in five (41.9%) say they are not very or not at all comfortable paying for items that way.

Broken out by age, 41.1% of 25-34 year olds are somewhat or very comfortable using their device to pay for items at the register, versus just 14.4% of those 65+. Men are much more likely to feel comfortable with the technology (32.6% vs. 22.5% of women.)

Pre-Halloween shopping

Early-bird shoppers have already been out and about this year. The survey found four in 10 (40.4%) begin their holiday shopping before Halloween -- consistent with more than 10 years of survey findings. The survey also found 40.9%l begin in November, compared with 38.8% last year, and 15.5% will begin in the first two weeks of December, little-changed from last year.

When asked why they begin shopping for the holiday season as early as September, most agree it helps them spread out their spending (61.9%). Half choose to do so to avoid holiday crowds (51.7%), and another 51.0 percent say shopping early helps them avoid the stress of last-minute shopping. Nearly 3 in 10 (29.9%) say they shop for the holiday season year-round, and more than one-quarter (27.3%) say the desire to get their hands on specific items drives them to shop early; unsurprisingly, 44.7% shop early because the deals and promotions are too good to pass up.

Why we shop where we shop

When it comes to why consumers chose to shop where they do during the holiday season, retailers should take heed: One-quarter of shoppers say easy-to-use mobile websites is an important factor in their decision to shop with a specific retailer. Those polled also say free shipping/shipping promotions (42.3%) are important factors. Consumers add that helpful, knowledgeable customer service (30.3%), convenient locations (47.9%), low prices (41.2%) and sales or price discounts (74.7%) also aid in their decision to shop at a particular retailer.

As the market becomes more competitive than ever before, retailers in recent years have begun to stress quality and selection of merchandise, and shoppers are paying attention: According to the survey, 6 in 10 say quality of merchandise (60.9%) and selection of merchandise (59.4%) are important factors in their decision to shop somewhere.

“Even with expectations for increased spending this year, smart shopping strategies will be very important to those celebrating the holidays,” said Prosper’s Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “Overall, consumers feel better about where they stand compared to a year ago, and as such could find themselves stretching their dollars to give their loved ones a holiday season to remember. Retailers, however, should still expect to see high demand for sales, coupons and other promotions as shoppers focus on ‘what’s in it for them’.”

Making a list, checking it twice

For the eighth year in a row gift cards are the most requested items. According to the survey, 62% say they’d most like a gift card, followed by clothing (52.5%), books, CDs, DVDs or video games (43.1%), and electronics (34.6%). One-quarter (24.8%) say they’d like to receive jewelry, up from slightly from last year.

When asked if the state of the U.S. economy would affect their holiday spending plans, 4 in 10 (41.4%) said yes, down almost 20% from last year and the lowest amount since NRF first asked in 2009. Of those who said yes, most agree they will compensate by spending less overall (75.6%). Others will shop for sales more often (49.0%), comparison shop online more often (34.4%), use coupons more often (37%), buy more practical gifts (28.4%) and use last year’s decorations (24.8%).

With a little more than 9 weeks to go before Christmas, the nation's retailers have visions of dollar signs dancing in their heads. According to the Natio...

Holiday sales (already?) seen increasing 4% this year

People looking for seasonal employment may benefit

We're still 3 weeks from Halloween and the National Retail Federation (NRF) is out with its forecast from sales during the Christmas shopping season.

The NRF says despite a turbulent start to 2014, it sees sales in November and December (excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales) jump 4.1% to $616.9 billion – up 1% from the 2013 increase.

Holiday sales on average have grown 2.9% over the past 10 years, including 2014’s estimates, and are expected to represent approximately 19.2 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales of $3.2 trillion. This would mark the first time since 2011 that holiday sales would be up more than 4%.

“Retailers could see a welcome boost in holiday shopping, giving some companies the shot in the arm they need after a volatile first half of the year and an uneventful summer,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “While expectations for sales growth are upbeat, it goes without saying there still remains some uneasiness and anxiety among consumers when it comes to their purchase decisions. The lagging economic recovery, though improving, is still top of mind for many Americans.

Improving confidence

While consumer confidence has been unstable much of the year, improvements over the past few months in key economic indicators will give way to increased spending power among holiday shoppers. Retail sales, jobs and housing data all point to healthy gains.

“Though we have only seen consumer income and spending moderately -- and erratically -- accelerate this year, we believe there is still room for optimism this holiday season,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “In the grand scheme of things, consumers are in a much better place than they were this time last year, and the extra spending power could very well translate into solid holiday sales growth for retailers; however, shoppers will still be deliberate with their purchases, while hunting for hard-to-pass-up bargains.”

Seasonal hiring to rise 725,000 – 800,000

With the increase in sales, there's likely to be more hiring during the holiday shopping season.

NRF expects retailers will hire between 725,000 and 800,000 seasonal workers -- potentially more than they actually hired during the 2013 holiday season (768,000). Seasonal employment in 2013 increased 14% over 2012.

“These holiday positions offer hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to turn their seasonal position into a long-term career opportunity in retail,” said Shay.

Growth in online sales expected

Meanwhile, Shop.org says it expects sales will grow between 8 – 11% percent over last holiday season to as much as $105 billion during November and December.

That projection is based on government data including, consumer credit, disposable personal income, and previous monthly retail sales releases. Holiday non-store sales grew 8.6% last year.

We're still 3 weeks from Halloween and the National Retail Federation (NRF) is out with its forecast from sales during the Christmas shopping season. The ...

Retailers expect treats, not tricks, as consumers shop for Halloween costumes

Record numbers of consumers are seen buying costumes

Consumers gearing up to celebrate the spookiest holiday of the year have retailers anticipating more costumes than ever flying off the shelves.

According to to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Halloween Consumer Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, more than two-thirds (67.4%) of celebrants will buy Halloween costumes for the holiday -- the most in the survey’s 11-year history.

Additionally, the average person is expected to spend $77.52 this Halloween, up almost $2.50 from last year. That means total spending on Halloween this year could hit $7.4 billion.

“As one of the fastest-growing consumer holidays, Halloween has retailers of all shapes and sizes preparing their stores and websites for the busy fall shopping season,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “There’s no question that the variety of adult, child and even pet costumes now available has driven the demand and popularity of Halloween among consumers of all ages. And, with the holiday falling on a Friday this year, we fully expect there will be a record number of consumers taking to the streets, visiting haunted houses and throwing unforgettable celebrations.”

Costumes for everyone

Party-goers are expected to splurge on spooky and fun garb to wear this year, spending $2.8 billion on costumes overall. Specifically, celebrants are projected to shell out $1.1 billion on children’s costumes, and $1.4 billion on adult costumes. And Fido and Fluffy will not be forgotten, with consumers spending $350 million on costumes for their furry friends.

Candy and greeting cards alike will be popular items this season, as consumers will spend $2.2 billion on candy this year and 35.9% of people will be sending Halloween greeting cards. With consumers planning to spend $2 billion on decorations for the frightful holiday, life-size ghosts, pumpkins and festive decor will be aplenty on lawns and doorsteps throughout the country.

Consumers will celebrate the holiday in many different ways, but topping the list of planned activities is handing out candy (71.1%), while others will decorate their homes and yards (46.7%), and dress in costume (45.8%). One-third of will be throw or attend a party (33.4%), compared with last year's30.9%.

Early shopping

Much like last year, consumers will hit the stores and the Internet early to get the first pick of costumes and candy. According to the survey, nearly one-third of celebrants (32.1%) say they will start their Halloween shopping before the first of October. And, while 43.3% kick off their shopping in the first 2 weeks of October, one-quarter (24.6%) will wait until the last minute and shop the last 2 weeks of October.

While the bulk of shoppers will look for costume inspiration online (34.2%) or in a retail store or costume shop (33%), Pinterest is a growing source of inspiration this year. The survey found 11.4% will turn to Pinterest for costume ideas, versus 9.3% last year. Young adults will drive the most Pinterest traffic: 21.2% of 18-24 year olds will turn to the popular site for ideas, as will 21.0% of 25-34 year olds.

“Social media is a great tool for consumers to find inspiration for all of their Halloween activities, including finding tips for decorating their homes and yards, looking for personal and even family costume ideas, and even finding the best deals from retailers,” said Prosper Insights Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “As the popularity of Halloween continues to grow to unseen levels, there is no doubt that Americans this year will find ways to get in the spirit, looking for affordable, fun ways to celebrate with their families.”

For some consumers the U.S. economy is still top-of-mind. According to the survey, 18.8% say the state of the U.S. economy will affect their Halloween spending plans. Specifically, nearly two in five (19.7%) of those affected will utilize their creative skills and make their own costumes rather than buy a new one this Halloween.

Consumers gearing up to celebrate the spookiest holiday of the year have retailers anticipating more costumes than ever flying off the shelves. According...

Father’s Day gift spending to top $12.5 billion this year

A new NRF survey indicates dad's taking it in the shorts again

Like Rodney Dangerfield, dad just “don't get no respect.” That's how it must seem when comparing spending for Father's Day with other holidays.

It's no secret that Father’s Day is the smallest of the American gift-giving holidays -- barely a blip on the retail sales radar compared with Christmas and Mother’s Day. Still, dutiful sons and daughter feel compelled to go out and buy something for the old man. But they don't go crazy about it

According to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) 2014 Father’s Day Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the average person will spend $113.80 on neckties, tools, electronics and other special gifts for dad -- roughly $6 dollars less than they did last year. Total spending for the holiday is expected to reach $12.5 billion.*

“Knowing both cost and sentiment are important to their shoppers, retailers this Father’s Day will make sure to offer promotions on a variety of gift options, including home improvement items, tools and even apparel,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As more people look for ‘experience gifts’ with tickets to baseball games or a day on the golf course, retailers will also make sure to promote their gift cards for families hoping to create the perfect gift package.”

That's it?

Most people (64.1%), according to the survey, will simply say “thank you” to dad with a greeting card, while four in 10 (41.5%) will treat him to new apparel items such as neckties and sweaters -- spending a total of $1.8 billion. Another 42.6% will celebrate with special outings such as dinner or a tickets to a sporting event, spending a total of $2.5 billion.

The survey also found that those celebrating Father’s Day will spend $1.6 billion on electronic gifts like smartphones and tablets, and $1.8 billion on gift cards, letting dad pick his own special gift.

Consumers will also spend on tools or appliances ($663 million), sporting goods or leisure items ($662 million), home improvement items ($645 million), personal care items ($641 million), books or CDs ($555 million) and automotive accessories ($520 million).

Sons and daughters will look for gifts at a variety of locations, including discount stores (28.1%), online (28.4%) and specialty stores (24.2%); 16.6% say they plan to support their communities and shop at a local or small business to find gift items for dad. Most shoppers, however, will head to dad’s favorite department store (35.8%).

Eye on the budget

“As we saw with Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day this year, consumers are keeping to a strict budget,” said Prosper Insight’s Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “Whether they spend $10 or $100, millions of Americans will find creative, affordable ways to show dad how much they care.”

On-the-go shoppers will use their smartphones and tablets to research and purchase gifts for dad this year. Nearly one-quarter of smartphone owners (23.4%) will research products and compare prices on gifts using their smartphone, and 3 in 10 tablet owners (30.6%) will do the same. Nearly 1 in 5 (18.2%) will purchase products with their tablet for Father’s Day.

More than half of survey respondents plan to shop for their father or stepfather (52.3%) and 27.6% of wives will look for ways to show their appreciation for their husband.

Like Rodney Dangerfield, dad just “don't get no respect.” That's how it must seem when comparing spending for Father's Day with other holidays. It's no se...

Is mom getting stiffed this Mother's Day?

A new survey indicates spending on gifts will be down this year

“We still love you mom, but we're cutting back.”

That seems to be the message in National Retail Federation's (NRF) 2014 Mother’s Day Spending Survey. Conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, the survey shows consumers will spend an average of $162.94 on mom this year -- down from a survey high of $168.94 last year. Total spending is expected to total $19.9 billion.

Still, retailers are an optimistic bunch. “As one of the most universally celebrated holidays, retailers will take this opportunity to attract Mother’s Day shoppers with promotions on ladies apparel items, health and beauty products, jewelry and even restaurant options,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Now fully into spring, retailers are hoping consumer sentiment and spending intentions continue to grow as we round out one of the busiest retail seasons of the year and prepare for summer.”

When you care enough...

The survey found that most will show their appreciation of mom with a greeting card (81.3%), though it appears many will also look for special gifts. Two-thirds (66.6%) will buy mom her favorite flowers, spending a total of $2.3 billion, and 33.5% will look for spring sweaters and blouses, spending a total of $1.7 billion on apparel and accessory items.

Also high on the list are books and CDs ($480 million), housewares or gardening tools ($812 million), personal experience gifts like a day at the spa ($1.5 billion), jewelry ($3.6 billion), and special outings like brunch or dinner ($3.8 billion).

Gadgetry spending slipping

Having spent the last few years treating mom to electronic gifts like tablets, smartphones, cameras and more, consumers this year may have less of a reason to purchase those items: 13.1% say they will buy mom a consumer electronic item and will spend a total of $1.7 billion, compared with $2.3 billion last year.

However, if mom does have her eye on something special for herself, there are still good things to come in the form of gift cards: 43.3% of those shopping for a gift for mom will buy her a gift card; 41.5% did so last year. Total spending on gift cards is expected rise slightly to $2.1 billion.

Practical gift-giving

“Americans haven’t forgotten about the state of the economy and are treating their finances and gift-giving budgets in a way that keeps practicality top of mind,” said Prosper’s Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “But like we saw with Valentine’s Day and Easter, people this year will look for special ways to treat mom to something nice without breaking the bank, knowing it’s the thought that counts.”

Most shoppers will head to specialty stores to find gifts (33.5%), but others will shop at department stores (32.4%), discount stores (24%), and online (29%).

The survey found 18-24 year-olds are the most likely to shop at department stores among all other age groups: more than half (51.6%) will visit a department store in search for their perfect gift for mom. But it’s 25-34 year-olds who will spend the most on mom, spending an average of $216.53.

Nearly two-thirds (63.9%) of those surveyed say they will shop for their mother or stepmother, while 22.5% will shop for their wife, 9.2% will shop for their daughter and 6.6% will shop for grandma.

“We still love you mom, but we're cutting back.” That seems to be the message in National Retail Federation's (NRF) 2014 Mother’s Day Spending Survey. Con...

Retailers hoping to cash in on the arrival of spring weather

But, it looks like Easter spending will drop this year

Consumers who are fed up with the long winter will likely welcome the Easter Bunny with open arms this year. But, will that translate into open wallets?

Not necessarily.

According to the National Retail Federations' (NRF) Easter Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, consumers will spend an average of $137.46 on apparel, food, candy, gifts and more -- slightly less than the $145.13 spent last year. Total spending is expected to reach $15.9 billion.

“The winter doldrums left consumers with a lot of pent-up demand, and though many Americans may take a cautious approach to spending on Easter items this year, retailers are anticipating that warmer weather will easily put consumers in the mood to buy bright clothes, holiday decorations and more,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As one of the biggest holidays of the year, retailers are looking forward to increased customer traffic in stores and online, and will roll out promotions on everything from garden supplies and patio sets to apparel and grocery items as they help their customers prepare for the holiday.”

Tradition rules

Though fewer people are expected to celebrate this year (80.3% vs. 83% last year), families are still looking forward to their traditional Sunday meals. Those who do plan to celebrate will spend the most on a grocery bill for a family dinner or Sunday brunch out. According to the survey, 85.7% of those celebrating will spend an average of $43.18 on a holiday meal -- totaling $5 billion.

Since the holiday traditionally marks the ceremonial start to spring, 42.9% will purchase new spring attire, such as bright Easter dress clothes for their children, spending an average of $22.71. Total spending on apparel is expected to reach $2.6 billion.

Additionally, nine in 10 (89.3%) of those celebrating will stock up on Easter candy, spending a total of $2.2 billion on their children’s favorite sweet treats. Families will also spend on gifts ($2.4 billion), flowers ($1.1 billion) and decorations ($1.1 billion).

“Americans are eager to dip their toes in the fresh green grass this Easter and celebrate the day with friends and family,” said Prosper Insights and Analytics Director Pam Goodfellow. “Though they are planning to trim their budgets in terms of spending on food, clothes and gifts, most will look for personal and fun items that won’t break the bank in order to enjoy the day.”

How they shop

The survey also found that many will use smartphones or tablets to check off their Easter shopping list.

Of those who own smartphones, nearly one in four (23.4%) will use their device to research products or compare prices. Just 12.2% will make an actual purchase with their smartphone.

Nearly 1 in 5 (19.2%) tablet owners will make a purchase on their device, but most will simply research holiday gifts, apparel and other items (30.2%).

Consumers who are fed up with the long winter are expected to welcome the Easter Bunny with open arms this year. But, will that translate into open wallets...

Valentine’s Day: The head or the heart?

A new survey says consumers will keep their budgets in check

Will consumers let their hearts rule this Valentine’s Day and splurge, or following a modest Christmas shopping season, pay attention to what their head are telling them.

According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2014 Valentine’s Day spending survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, it's the latter.

The survey finds 54% Americans will celebrate with their loved ones this year, down 6% from 2013, with the average person planing to spend $133.91 on candy, cards, gifts, dinner and more, up less than $3 from $130.97 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $17.3 billion.

“Valentine’s Day will continue to be a popular gift-giving event, even when consumers are frugal with their budgets. This is the one day of the year when millions find a way to show their loved ones they care,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Consumers can expect Cupid’s holiday to resemble the promotional holiday season we saw just a few months ago, as retailers recognize that their customers are still looking for the biggest bang for their buck.”

Perfection on a budget

Gift-givers will find the perfect gift for their loved ones that fits their budget, whether it’s candy, flowers, jewelry, clothing, an evening out or simply a greeting card. Nearly half (48.7%) will buy candy, a third will give flowers (37.3%) and over half (51.2%) will send greeting cards.

Nineteen percent will treat their significant other to something sparkly -- jewelry spending will total $3.9 billion, and 37% will celebrate with an evening out, spending an estimated total of $3.5 billion. Others will give more practical gifts like clothing (15.8%) or gift cards (14%) so their loved ones can have that item they’ve been eyeing in the store.

Big spenders

Men will spend $108.38 on gifts for their significant others -- twice as much as women who will lay out $49.41 on their special someone. But Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples; people will show their appreciation for family members (59.4%) friends (21.7%) teachers (20.4%) and colleagues (12.1%). And like every holiday, people won’t forget about their pets. More than 19% will buy gifts for their furry friends, spending an average of $5.51.

“While fewer are planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, millions of shoppers will still make room in their discretionary budgets to send cards and gifts to loved ones or enjoy a special evening out,” says Prosper Insights and Analytics Director Pam Goodfellow. “Consumers can expect promotions on everything from flowers to date night dinner packages in the coming days, leaving plenty of ideas for those looking to spoil their Valentines.”

Cautious consumers do their research when it comes to shopping, and many will purchase gifts online. The survey found that 26.1% plan to shop online this Valentine’s Day, virtually the same as last year. Many will turn to their tablets or smartphones before making their final gift decisions; 24% will research products or compare prices on their smartphones and 32.2% will do so on their tablets.

Will consumers let their hearts rule this Valentine’s Day and splurge, or following a modest Christmas shopping season, pay attention to what their head ar...

Internet continues to level the playing field for consumers

Businesses now scramble to provide better service and competitive prices

There has always been a certain tension between businesses and consumers. What has been good for one has not always been particularly good for the other.

For example, if a business can preserve and expand its profit margin on the things it sells it is usually more profitable, a good thing for the company and its stockholders. But high margins mean fewer sales and discounts – bad for consumers.

For a long time it seems businesses have maintained the upper hand in this relationship but the tables appear to be turning in favor of the consumer, and the Internet – which has emerged as a powerful tool for communication and commerce – may be the reason. The latest evidence may be found in the most recent holiday sales.

More online shopping

A report by the Wall Street Journal found in-store traffic during November and December was down sharply from the 2010 holiday shopping season – about 50% lower. Since the economy was much stronger in 2013 than 2010, a year after the end of the Great Recession, that shouldn't be. 

Consumers were still spending money, however. They just weren't spending it in retail stores.

Economists saw the same thing happen in 2012. On Black Friday in-store sales dipped slightly. However Black Friday online sales jumped 26%. In 2013 that trend continued.

CardinalCommerce, a payment system for retailers, says there was a record number of online transactions during the 2013 holiday shopping season, an increase of 46% over 2012. On Cyber Monday, consumers spent $2.29 billion, making it the biggest sales day in e-commerce history, according to the Custora Pulse, an annual holiday benchmark report.

New records

Cyber Monday's overall online shopping numbers marked a 16% increase from 2012. Online sales broke all-time records each of the five days from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday in 2013.

With so many transactions occurring online, fewer were taking place in stores. Retailers like Target and Walmart, with a strong online presence, were able to make up for their lost in-store revenue. Stores without a strong web presence were the big holiday losers.

The real winners, one can argue, are consumers who can quickly shop for the best price on a particular item and then buy it, without ever leaving the house. In the past shoppers had to go from store to store to find what they wanted, and didn't always get the best price.

UPS meltdown

Lest anyone doubt the shift from in-store sales to e-commerce, just look at what happened to United Parcel Service (UPS) in the last week before Christmas. UPS acknowledged that it was overwhelmed by unexpected volume but that explanation didn't sit well with consumers, who said the company should have stopped guaranteeing next-day delivery if it couldn't deliver. One driver quoted by USA Today said it had been the "worst Christmas ever."

Worst Christmas for UPS, perhaps, but the best Christmas yet for online retailers. And undelivered presents aside, a win for consumers who were able to get more bang for their Christmas buck, thanks to the Internet.

The Internet has given consumers an advantage in other ways as well. In the last few years – especially since the explosion in mobile devices – deal and coupon sites have grown in popularity. These sites direct consumers to stores in their areas that have discounts on all kinds of products and services.

The trade publication eMarketer estimates more than 92.5 million people in the U.S. redeemed a digital coupon in 2012. This year, the company predicts U.S. adult digital coupon users will surpass 100 million.

Posting experiences

Finally, the Internet gives consumers a way to communicate, sharing information about experiences, good and bad. ConsumerAffairs has given consumers a place to communicate with each other since 1998. There have been many other sites since then.

Businesses taking advantage of consumers, or providing poor service, have been called to account. The smart operators have adapted, using the Internet to respond to consumer complaints and make things right.

Now, when you make a significant purchase, such as a car or major appliance, you are likely to get an email from the company you did business with, wanting to know about your experience. It's a proactive way to identify product and service problems before they get posted online.

The bottom line is that all of this is returning power to consumers, who now have more leverage in the marketplace than they once did. In many cases, it's resulting in better deals and better service.

There has always been a certain tension between businesses and consumers. What has been good for one has not always been particularly good for the other....

Game systems, iPads work their way onto the list for Santa this year

America's kids are growing more tech-savvy each year

While kids still want classic toys like LEGO and Barbie for Christmas, so-called “nontraditional” items are finding their way onto wish lists this year.

According to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) 2013 Top Toys survey, iPads are among the most popular gifts for both girls and boys -- with demand among young girls being slightly higher (girls #4, boys #13).

“Although consumers may spend slightly less on holiday gifts this year, parents will still find a way to check off items from their child’s wish list,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Early promotions and attractive holiday deals will put parents in a position to find their children the perfect gifts while still maintaining their budgets.”

What do they want?

According to NRF’s 2013 holiday consumer survey, 44.3% plan to buy toys as gifts this holiday season. Children are still asking for timeless items like Barbie and dolls (girls #1and #2 respectively) or LEGO and toy cars (boys #1 and #3 respectively).

And the younger generation is clearly more technologically savvy than ever, asking this year for tablets/iPads, smartphones (girls #11) and game consoles like Xbox One (boys #5) and PlayStation 4 (girls #10, boys #6).

Other popular toys for girls include Monster High Dolls (#3), Disney Princess (#4) and American Girl (#5). The hot new item for boys this year is Skylanders (#7), a hugely popular interactive video game that allows kids to play with a toy action figure at the same time.

“Timeless, classic toys will always resonate with children, but tablets and smartphones continue to steal more attention from today’s kids,” said Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director for Prosper Insights and Analytics, which conducted the survey. She says that leaves mom and dad with no option but to look for ways to get their children their own items -- “and leave theirs alone.”

2013 Top Toys for Boys

1. LEGO

2. Video Games

3. Cars & Trucks (generic)

4. Hot Wheels

5. Xbox One

6. PlayStation 4

7. Skylanders

8. Remote Controlled Vehicles

9. Action Figures

10. Bicycle (T)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (T)

2013 Top Toys for Girls

1. Barbie

2. Dolls (generic)

3. Monster High Dolls

4. Disney Princesses (T)

Tablet/Apple iPad (T)

5. American Girl (T)

Lalaloopsy (T)

6. Furby

7. LEGO/LEGO Friends

8. Elmo/Big Hugs Elmo

9. Hello Kitty

10. My Little Pony (T)

PlayStation 4 (T)

While kids still want classic toys like LEGO and Barbie for Christmas, so-called “nontraditional” items are finding their way onto wish lists this year. A...

A bargain gift? Careful, it could be counterfeit

How to tell if it's a fake or the real thing

This holiday shopping season there have been some eye-popping bargains so far. But mixed in with all these great deals are some not-so-great offers. Yes, the price is rock bottom but the merchandise is a knock-off, a counterfeit version of the brand you think you are getting.

“Almost everyone wants a good deal and wants to save money, but buying counterfeit poses serious health and safety risks, not to mention loss of revenue to businesses,” said Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. “As parents, we need to set the example for our children and explain to them the consequences of buying counterfeit products.”

Safety is an important issue. Counterfeit goods haven't undergone safety inspections like the real version of the product. They could pose a danger to the recipients.

Not a victimless crime

Once viewed as “victimless crimes,” counterfeiting and piracy have become big business in recent years. Since the early 1990s, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports trade in counterfeits has grown at eight times the rate of legitimate trade. Seizures of counterfeit goods by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol rose 125% during the past five years and are up 80% from 2005 to 2006 alone.

How can you tell if that bargain you are considering is the real thing or just a cheap knock-off? The U.S. Chamber of Commerce offers this advice:

Look closely at labels, packaging and contents

This might be your best way of spotting a fake. Look for missing or expired “use by” dates, broken or missing safety seals, missing warranty information, or otherwise unusual packaging.

Consider the source

If you are buying from a reputable, well-known store or website, chances are you are dealing with the real thing. Buying from a street vendor or a website you've never heard of could increase your chances of ending up with a counterfeit article.

Watch for missing sales tax charges

No one likes to pay sales tax but if you aren't charged, that's a red flag. Businesses selling counterfeit goods usually don't report their sales to financial authorities—a difference you may notice in the price you ultimately pay, especially in states that collect sales taxes.

How secure is your transaction?

Operations moving counterfeit goods aren't likely to invest in elaborate security systems to protect your financial information. Walk away if you are uncomfortable with the security of the transaction. When doing business online, make sure your payments are submitted via websites beginning with https:// and look for a lock symbol at the bottom of your browser. If you are making an in-person purchase, check to make sure your credit card information does not appear on copies that can fall into the wrong hands.

Here are some other signs you aren't dealing with the real thing:

  • The product priced substantially below retail
  • The product appears to be of poor quality
  • The packaging is torn or otherwise suspicious
  • The seller accept payments in cash only
  • The logos don't look quite right or are in the wrong place
  • There is no licensing, copyright or trademark information on the packaging

Most common counterfeits

Almost any product can be counterfeited but there are certain items that get copied more than others. Toys and electronic games are a common counterfeit product because they are so easy to fake. Jewelry is another common con – beware the Rolex watch for $50. Music CDs and movies are also easily copied and sold as the real thing. Jerseys of professional sports franchises are easily copied too.

“We must recognize counterfeits for what they are,” Hood said. “They are a serious danger to our personal, financial and societal well-being.”

This holiday shopping season there have been some eye-popping bargains so far. But mixed in with all these great deals are some not-so-great offers. Yes, t...

CyberMonday lives up to its hype

Monday was the biggest U.S. online spending day in history

From all the hype, you would think that Black Friday and Cyber Monday were days when humanity scaled new heights, achieved new dreams or otherwise hung the moon.

But although it gets a little tedious listening to all the blather, the fact is that Cyber Monday blew it out the tailpipe this year, according to new figures released by comScore, which ranks this year's Cyber Monday as the heaviest U.S. online spending day in history.

Sales for the day reached $1.735 billion, up 18% from a year ago, while online spending for the five-day period beginning Thanksgiving totaled $5.3 billion, up 22%.

"Any notion that Cyber Monday is declining in importance appears to be completely unfounded," said Gian Fulgoni, the chairman of comScore. "While it's true that many retailers are bleeding their Cyber Monday promotions into the weekend before and the days afterward, Cyber Monday itself continues to be the most important day of the online holiday shopping season."

For the holiday season to date, $23.9 billion has been spent online, marking an 8 percent increase versus the corresponding days last year (and a 25 percent increase if using the alternate comparison of the 4-week period preceding Thanksgiving).

The weekend after Thanksgiving posted particularly strong growth online, raking in $1.594 billion in spending for an increase of 34 percent compared to the same weekend last year. For the five-day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, online buying from desktop computers totaled $5.3 billion, up 22 percent versus last year.  

Electronics led the way

Not surprisingly, electronics of all kinds led the way, as consumers snapped up smartphones, tablets, big-screen TVs and other goodies.

During the five-day period from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, consumer electronics ranked as the fastest-gaining product category versus year ago, followed by video game consoles & accessories, home & garden, apparel & accessories and sport & fitness.

From all the hype, you would think that Black Friday and Cyber Monday were days when humanity scaled new heights, achieved new dreams or otherwise hung the...

'Webrooming' this holiday season's biggest shopping trend

"Showrooming" is so 2012

Last year it was showrooming – the practice of checking out merchandise in a store, then ordering it online, usually from some place else.

Retailers hate that and geared up this holiday season to try and counter it with aggressive online deals of their own. But consumers are on to a new trend – webrooming – according to a new survey from Harris Interactive.

Webrooming is just the reverse. A consumer will use a desktop or mobile device at home to check out deals, then head for the store to make the purchase. Retailers like that a little better, though truth be told most big box chains are now so heavily invested in an Internet sales model it probably doesn't matter.

The survey shows that nearly half of U.S. consumers – 46% – have showroomed, up only slightly from last holiday season. But this year 69% of consumers say they have webroomed.

Not mutually exclusive

Showrooming and webrooming are far from mutually exclusive. In fact, the survey shows that those who have done one are more likely to have done the other as well. Six in ten webroomers have showroomed and nearly nine in ten showroomers have webroomed.

All of this points to the importance of the Internet as a shopping tool. Consumers no longer go blindly into a transaction, with no idea what price another store might have on their item of interest.

While retailers may not like showrooming, webrooming places just as much – if not more – pressure on them. In the comfort of their home a consumer has plenty of time to visit multiple sites and conduct multiple searchers, reading multiple reviews before making a decision. In a crowded, noisy store with their smartphone, the same consumer might visit fewer sites before pushing the “buy” button.

That means retailers' websites not only have to have the best prices, their websites also have to be the most functional and easy to use.

You snooze you lose

“If performance is slow, if you're on your mobile phone or a tablet, and you're not able to access the site quickly, people will abandon that transaction,” said Margaret Kuchler, Director of Industry Marketing for Akamai Technologies. “They may be less likely to revisit the site, and may be even less likely to purchase from the company in the future.”

Dr. Gary Edwards, Chief Customer Officer at Empathica, which consults the retail industry, agrees.

The takeaway for retailers is that shoppers expect the customer experience to be continuous across all channels,” he writes in a recent blog entry. “To take advantage of the webrooming trend, leading retail brands are launching initiatives that expand consumers’ access to information online, while retaining control over the customer journey by emphasizing brick-and-mortar as the customer’s final destination.” 

Other research suggests webrooming is more prevalent than showrooming among the Millennial generation. According to research conducted by the Urban Land Institute earlier this year, 50% of consumers age 18-34 prefer to research their purchase online before heading to the store, while only 11% said they preferred to showroom.

Winners

While new trends always present new opportunities for upstarts, the Harris Interactive poll suggests the established players are benefiting most. The survey shows showroomers are spending the most time at Walmart, Best Buy and Target, in that order – then doing the majority of their buying at Amazon.com.

However, Walmart, Best Buy and Target are benefiting the most from the webrooming trend, because after conducting their research at home, that's where most consumers are going to make their purchases, the survey shows.

"When it comes to the battle for consumers' holiday shopping dollars, all retailers are upping their games," said Mike de Vere, President of the Harris Poll. "Online versus brick and mortar retailers each have their own advantages, and poaching customers from competitors is all about playing to those strengths.”

It also provides more choices for consumers. Want to skip the crowded stores this holiday shopping season? Online is a clear answer. Feel better about being able to take your purchase home with you immediately? Brick and mortar stores have you covered.  

Last year it was showrooming – the practice of checking out merchandise in a store, then ordering it online, usually from some place else.Retailers...

Picking the right toy for a child

Here are some suggestions, along with what to watch out for

If you are a parent you probably know exactly what your child wants as a gift. More than likely you hear about it several times each day. But what if you are shopping for a grandchild, a niece or the child of a friend? Do you know what makes a good gift?

While it's always gratifying to get children a gift they'll like, it's more important to buy gifts that are safe and age-appropriate. Just to be safe check a list of recalled toys. These are toys that don't meet the safety standards published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 

Consulting the list is a good idea if you bought a toy months ago and set it aside. On the off-chance that it was recalled after you purchased it, the list will let you know.

Consider the child's age

If you don't know the child very well it can sometimes be hard to know whether they might like the toy you have in mind. That's where the age factor can be a help. To increase your odds of pleasing the recipient, select something that is appropriate for their age.

You will usually find the recommended age range printed on the package or in the instruction manual like this: 5-6 years or +5 years. There is a safety issue here – a toy in the hands of an older child might be perfectly safe but not for a child who is much younger.

But age plays another role. You don't want to select something that is too advanced for the recipient or something they'll consider “lame” because it is for a younger child.

Federal safety experts suggest you avoid buying toys with sharp points or toys that shoot projectiles for any child under eight. These types of toys can cause serious injuries.

Check for lead

Despite regulations against its use lead is sometimes found in children's toys, resulting in a recall. Read labels carefully to make sure the item you are considering isn't one that has slipped through the regulatory cracks. Lead is a toxic substance, especially for small children.

If you are buying a battery-operated toy, make sure the battery compartment can't be opened by a child. Also, it's advisable to avoid toys that have to be plugged in or that use electrical wires.

Suggestions

Now that we've told you what not to buy, you probably would like a couple of suggestions for what you should buy. Parent's Choice includes among its suggestions Spot It! Party, a refreshing break from video games. In this game players try to be the first person to identify matches on various game cards. It's appropriate for ages 10 and up. 

For ages two and up Parents.com recommends Animal Hospital, with three animals and realistic tools, including a stethoscope and pet vitamins. 

In the video game department, Parenting.com has a list of the best PlayStation 3 games for kids, the best XBox 360 games for kids and a list of the Top 10 violent video games to avoid. 

Finally, the National Parenting Center recently released its list of toys earning its Seal of Approval. The list is heavily dominated by educational toys and items designed to appeal to a child's sense of creativity.

Remember, when a child opens a toy, immediately throw away packaging, including plastic wrappers, boxes, string or other packaging. Children can accidentally choke or harm themselves if they play with them.

If you are a parent you probably know exactly what your child wants as a gift. More than likely you hear about it several times each day.But what if you...

Data suggests consumers doing more holiday shopping online

Thanksgiving day was nearly as big as Black Friday

It may be a few days before there are estimates of how much consumers spent between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday but we already know how they shopped. They did it with their computers, tablets and smartphones.

Akamai is a web content distribution network that powers 96 of the 100 top U.S. retailers’ websites and closely tracks how those websites are being used. Akamai's publicly accessible Net Usage Index (NUI) tool tracks traffic to these sites in real time. It showed an astonishing start to Cyber Monday with the retail NUI showing over 9.1 million page views per minute – 283% over normal – as of 11 a.m. ET on Cyber Monday.

Margaret Kuchler, Director of Industry Marketing for Akamai Technologies, has been tracking web traffic to retailers' sites on an ongoing basis. The trend of holiday shoppers moving from brick and mortar stores to the online marketplace has suddenly accelerated this year.

20% increase over last year

“What we're seeing this year is at least a 20% increase in peak page views per minute over last year,” Kuchler said. “On Black Friday, specifically, we saw a really big traffic day.”

Black Friday was the biggest day last week but just barely. Thanksgiving Day, which has emerged as a holiday shopping day only in the last couple of years, had almost as much retailer web traffic as Black Friday.

On Black Friday there were 9.3 million peak page views per minute at 1 p.m. ET, according to Kuchler's charts. Thanksgiving Day peaked nearly as high, but what is more notable, Kuchler says, is the longer sustained periods of web traffic than Thanksgiving Day 2012.

Page views don't necessarily translate into purchases. There can be many reasons why a consumer would visit a website and not make a purchase. But it correlates fairly closely. And it isn't unreasonable to assume that there has been a seismic shift in the way consumers do their holiday shopping.

“I think this suggests that shoppers are shifting more of their shopping and spending to the web,” Kuchler said. “I think mobile is playing a major role in that as well.”

Role of mobile

The data bears that out. Akamai Research based on data for 30-plus retailers found 38% of consumers visiting those sites on Saturday were using a mobile device. The company estimates that 89% of consumers use their smartphones while shopping in stores. The Internet – in particular mobile – has become a powerful took for savvy consumers.

“They've got a lot of power at their finger tips,” Kuchler said. “They also have a sounding board through social networks and review sites so that if they are dissatisfied it's easy to share their experiences, good or bad.”

This powerful tool puts pressure on retailers. Online they have to make sure their websites are optimized for performance and keep people engaged long enough to make a purchase. It also works to the benefit of consumers shopping in stores.

Stores 'going digital'

“A lot of stores are getting more digital, enabling their associates to have iPads so they can look up inventory or give a demo of a product,” Kuchler said. “People have that access on their own but if you leave it to them they might pull up your competitor's site.”

So instead of fighting the Internet, retailers have embraced it with the evidence showing up in this year's web traffic numbers. And while the Cyber Monday numbers may surpass those of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, it raises the question – is there really any need for a Cyber Monday?

“Years ago Cyber Monday was such a big event because broadband adoption was not that advanced at the consumer level,” Kuchler said. “You shopped at work because you got good broadband connectivity there. Now that consumers have connectivity at home we're seeing large amounts of traffic from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday.”

As Akamai sums it up, we no longer go online. We are online.

It may be a few days before there are estimates of how much consumers spent between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday but we already know how they shopped. The...

On a budget? Here are 20 gifts under $20

Read this before you reach for a gift card

Survey after survey has suggested consumers plan to spend less this holiday season. In response, retailers have ramped up the sales and started Black Friday promotions three weeks early.

But just because you've put yourself on a budget this holiday season doesn't mean you can't buy thoughtful gifts the people on your list will appreciate. To get you started here are 20 gifts that sell for $20 or less. Keep in mind that many of them have to be purchased online.

In the kitchen

  • Food Network Waterproof Digital Thermometer - Every chef needs precise data on the cooking progress. This digital thermometer provides it. From Kohl's at $14.99.
  • Roma 6" Traditional Pasta Machine - Instantly helps you turn your kitchen into an Italian restaurant. Available at Walmart for $19.98.
  • Fox Run Craftsmen Aluminum Ravioli Maker - To supplement the pasta machine consider this tool to crank out ravioli. From WayFair for $15.70.
  • Touchless Bag Resealer - Just slide Bag Re-Sealer across bags to seal in freshness. Safely pack cosmetics when traveling. Magnetic back keeps Bag Re-Sealer handy on your refrigerator. At Amazon.com for $16.98.
  • Ekco PAO! 9-Piece Deluxe Sushi Set - The Sushi Maker Kit includes a sushi rolling mat, a three-step sushi maker, a rice paddle, two dipping sauce dishes, two pair of chopsticks and two chopstick rests. The Sushi Rolling Mat set also comes with complete instructions, cooking tips and recipes. At Walmart $14.98
  • Sushi for Dummies - You say you don't know how to make sushi? How hard could it be, there's no cooking involved? Still, this book guides you through the process. At Target for $16.99.

For pet owners

  • Dogit Go Slow Anti-Gulping Dog Bowl – Know someone with a dog who eats like a pig? This gift may help the pet's digestion and reduce the sloppy messes around the dog's eating area. You'll find it at Petsmart for $11.99.
  • TagWorks Sport Gold Fish Pet Tag – If someone on your list has a cat that tends to wander far from home this classy, personalized tag may make sure they find their way home. Permanent laser-engraved text. 3M protective film enclosed to prevent wear caused by the constant rubbing action of a license tag. Attaches to most collars. From Petsmart for $9.99.
  • Rayovac Keychain Charger – Cellphone batteries die at the most inopportune times. But having this handy charging device on your keychain means you've got a little extra juice when you need it. Available at Walmart for $8.97.
  • Giant jack to hold your smartphone – This large plastic jack (as in the child's game Jacks) cradles your smartphone when it isn't in your pocket. Instead of laying your phone on the table where it can pick up scratches, place it in Jack’s waiting arms until you need it. The stable, horizontal positioning is also ideal for Web browsing or participating in video chats with friends. At Brookstone for $5.99.
  • C9 by Champion Men's Easy Touch Running Gloves - Assorted Colors. Lightweight and comfortable with touchpads on the index fingers for smartphone use. At Target.com for $11.19.

Handmade gifts

Ordering from Etsy can often produce high quality, thoughtful gifts for very little money. While many items are one-of-a-kind handmade objects most artists will make another upon request. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Cold-process soap handmade with moisturizing oils - saponified olive, palm, soybean, cocoa butter, shea butter, sunflower and coconut oils, Guiness Extra Stout Beer, cocoa powder, scent. Handmade by All Things Herbal in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. $6
  • Personalized Initial Necklace with Pine Cone Charm Silver Toned Monogrammed Jewelry Copper Rustic Nature - From It's Taylor Made for $15.
  • Radio Flyer My 1st Scooter - An old fashioned toy but kids will probably think its something new. After all, when was the last time you saw a kid on a scooter? A clearance items at AceHardware.com. $19.99.
  • Nakamichi Mini Speaker – When ear buds just won't do, amplify your smartphone or tablet with a battery powered speaker that pumps out great quality. The built-in lithium battery recharges using the Mini USB Port. Also plays MP3s with your Micro SD card or Flash drive. At Sears for $14.99.
  • LEGO Star Wars AT-RT Walker – The popular LEGO line of toys can be on the pricey side but we found this Star Wars-themed item at Toys R Us for $17.99.
Survey after survey has suggested consumers plan to spend less this holiday season. In response, retailers have ramped up the sales and started Black Frida...

Survey shows we're becoming a nation of re-gifters

In some cases, it passes the etiquette test

Not every present we receive is something we really want. In fact, some can be downright bizarre. Increasingly those gifts end up being gifts given to someone else, a practice known as “re-gifting.”

While it might seem impolite to recycle a gift, the evidence suggests the practice is becoming mainstream. A survey by Ebates.com found that one-third of U.S. consumers re-gift during the holiday season. This year, 39% said they will give a gift they received to someone else.

The perfect re-gift

What makes the perfect re-gift? Respondents to the survey favor home décor items, gift cards, bottles of wine, books and perfume or cologne. The term “re-gifting,” by the way, is said to have originated in a 1990s episode of Seinfeld.

To find out if re-gifting is ever acceptable, we consulted etiquette guru, EmilyPost.com. We were surprised to find that it is, sort of.

“Gifts should be recycled only rarely, and only when the following criteria are met:

  • You're certain that the gift is something the recipient would really like to receive.
  • The gift is brand new (no cast-offs allowed) and comes with its original box and instructions.
  • The gift isn't one that the original giver took great care to select or make.

Risky re-gifting

But re-gifting must be done carefully. It becomes risky when the original giver, original recipient and new recipient all know each other, as in the above Seinfeld clip. Ask yourself if it would be awkward if they all knew that you've recycled a gift from one to the other.

Re-gifts sometimes come in handy when you unexpectedly receive a gift from someone and feel you must reciprocate. In the Ebates survey, 50% of those questioned said they plan to have a “back up” gift at the ready for just such an occasion. Coincidentally, the top choices of “back up” gifts include a gift card, candy or snack, wine or champagne, a book, and home décor – many of which made the list of most popular re-gifts.

Celebrating re-gifting

There is even a website – regiftable.com – that celebrates the practice of re-gifting. The site, operated by the Money Management Institute (MMI), promotes re-gifting as a way to be frugal and practical during the holiday season. But it cautions that not all gifts are re-giftable.

“Never re-gift handmade or one-of-a-kind items,” the site advises. “Signed books and monogrammed items are off-limits. Do you have to be told not to re-gift free promotional items? Some gifts that are good candidates for re-gifting include good (unopened!) bottles of wine, new household items and inexpensive jewelry.”

Should you ever re-gift to your spouse or significant other? It's probably a very risky move, though the Ebates survey suggests it might be tempting.

The survey found consumers – 30% of women and 23% of men -- have the hardest time buying for their significant others. The survey found that trend remained consistent regardless of whether the couple had children, but became increasingly difficult as their incomes rose.

So if you open a nicely wrapped gift this holiday season and find a home décor item, gift card, bottle of wine, a book or perfume or cologne, you might have been re-gifted.

Not every present we receive is something we really want. In fact, some can be downright bizarre. Increasingly those gifts end up being gifts given to some...

Growth projected for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales -- but not much

Weakened consumer confidence will have consumers looking for bargains

Nearly stagnant disposable incomes, the government shutdown and a general waning of consumer coonfidence are expected to take a toll on sales in the coming Christmas shopping season.

IBISWorld is forecasting weak Thanksgiving and holiday gift spending, with revenue generated by the Thanksgiving holiday increasing only slightly from 2012. And, say these experts, while Cyber Monday sales are anticipated to increase strongly by double-digits this year, this growth rate is deceptive. Forecasters say it's mainly due to consumers’ continued shift away from physical store shopping and toward online deals.

The bottom line: Overall gift spending from Black Friday through Cyber Monday is expected to grow by a meager 2.2% year-over-year.

Thanksgiving

Compared with last year, Thanksgiving spending is anticipated to grow 3.7% -- to $8.2 billion. More than two-thirds of this figure is expected to come from spending on food and drink for family gatherings and festivities; this category is expected to increase 5.1% from 2012. Celebrating the year-end holidays with loved ones remains an important tradition for many Americans, so spending on consumables is not expected to suffer much, despite poor confidence.

Families and relatives are expected to gather around the turkey this year, with 87.8% of US households expected to celebrate T-day. The average household will spend $52.75 on Thanksgiving dinner and $31.23 on turkey alone. Other, more discretionary expenses such as greeting cards, gifts and decorations are not anticipated to grow much this year -- increasing only 0.7%. Consumers are more likely to dedicate their cash to food and drinks.

Thanksgiving Sales

200820092010201120122013
Food and drink ($m)$4,741.8$4,530.9$4,746.6$5,046.1$5,393.5$5,666.5
Turkey ($m)$2,699.4$2,533.6$2,722.6$2,987.4$3,253.3$3,354.2
Other expenses ($m)$2,442.7$2,333.3$2,289.1$2,384.3$2,497.9$2,557.5
Total ($m)$7,184.5$6,864.2$7,083.3$7,478.1$7,933.8$8,224.0
% annual change-4.5%3.2%5.6%6.1%3.7%

All dollar figures are in constant 2013 dollars

Holiday shopping

With tight budgets expected this season, Black Friday and Cyber Monday spending increases are projected to be smaller than those of 2012. This year, Black Friday is forecast to generate $13.6 billion in revenue -- an increase of 3.9% over last year’s total. The smaller increase is due to the continued sluggish growth in disposable incomes and relentless high unemployment. Still, growth in Black Friday revenue will be driven largely by door-buster deals and online sales that start at midnight. With bellies full of turkey, consumers are likely to jump on these online promotions; others will opt to walk the food off at retail locations, vying to score a great deal.

Spending during the Black Friday weekend (which includes Friday, Saturday and Sunday) is anticipated to grow just 1.7% to $38.7 billion. The bulk of weekend purchases (35.2%) is expected to be made on Black Friday itself, owing to enticing sales and the spirit of the day itself.

Cyber Monday, while still only about 15.0% the size of Black Friday in terms of revenue, is forecast to record double-digit growth of 13.1%. The $1.8 billion shopping day has increasingly made its way to the top of shoppers’ preferences for its plethora of online deals and free shipping promotions. This year will be no exception, as Cyber Monday outpaces growth during the remainder of the shopping weekend.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

200820092010201120122013
BlackFriday ($m)$12,043.9$12,042.6$12,348.2$12,382.4$13,113.3$13,618.5
% annual change0.0%2.5%0.3%5.9%3.9%
Black Fridayweekend ($m)$32,273.7$32,184.6$33,891.2$34,637.1$38,034.8$38,688.3
% annual change-0.3%5.3%2.2%9.8%1.7%
CyberMonday ($m)$914.4$949.1$1,080.5$1,293.8$1,565.8$1,770.7
% annual change3.8%13.9%19.7%21.0%13.1%
Nearly stagnant disposable incomes, the government shutdown and a general waning of consumer are expected to take a toll on sales in the coming Christmas s...

Ready, set -- go!!

Shoppers are gearing up for the annual Thanksgiving weekend assault

Thanksgiving falls as late this year as the calendar possibly allows and that has holiday shoppers already mapping their strategies for the big shopping weekend.

A preliminary Thanksgiving weekend shopping survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) finds up to 140 million people plan to or will shop over the weekend (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) -- down slightly from the 147 million who planned to do so last year.

In this survey, NRF asked if people plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day, and of those who plan to shop that weekend, nearly one-quarter (23.5%) or 33 million people plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day.

“Though many people have already started to check off items from their holiday shopping lists, we fully expect to see many more come out on Thanksgiving Day and throughout the weekend to take in the festive sights and sounds -- and to take advantage of unbeatable deals,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As the official kick off to the holiday season, retailers are prepared to pull out all the stops for their online and in-store shoppers, including offering sweepstakes with cash prizes, free gifts with purchase and even exclusive opportunities to score top gift items before everyone else.”

Bracing for Black Friday

According to the survey, Black Friday will be the biggest day of the weekend: 69.1% of those asked (approximately 97 million) plan to shop on Black Friday. Additionally 43.8% (61 million) will shop on Saturday and 24.2% (34 million) will shop on Sunday. And, of those who plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day this year, seven in 10 (69.2%) say they shopped online and in stores on Thanksgiving in 2012.

“Savvy shoppers know that the biggest shopping weekend of the year means even bigger savings, and those with specific gifts to buy will definitely be out and about or online over the holiday weekend,” said Prosper’s Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “Though most will adhere to a very strict budget and will make thoughtful decisions about the gifts they purchase, it’s evident that Americans are in the holiday spirit, despite their cautious approach to spending.”

When it comes to the many ways that savvy shoppers plan to keep up with retailers’ holiday promotions, the classic advertising circular wins again: half (49.1%) will scour newspapers for information about upcoming sales events. However, many people are still very much tuned into retailers’ digital news: 33.5% will look for special emails from retailers, 27.0% will follow retailers’ websites and 21.9% will scour coupon websites to look for deals.

The online factor

Shoppers can look forward to numerous online, mobile and in-store promotions from retailers for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday weekend. According to Shop.org’s eHoliday survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, half of retailers surveyed (51.1%) are planning to start their Thanksgiving weekend online promotions at least five days before the big weekend. Recognizing the growing trend among consumers to shop online on Thanksgiving Day, 53.5% say they will offer promotions specifically for that day.

Over the course of Black Friday weekend, retailers will tout a variety of offers, including special email campaigns (44.2%) and one-day sales (41.9%), but consumers will also benefit from a “freebie with purchase” promotions (23.3%), free standard shipping on all purchases (20.9%) and discounted shipping (20.9%).

Thanksgiving falls as late this year as the calendar possibly allows and that has holiday shoppers already mapping their shopping strategies for the big we...

Averting showrooming’s Scrooge effect

Retailers need to embrace new practices; price matching may have a negative impact

As the holiday season swings into gear so does competitive shopping with consumers scoping out merchandise in physical stores and then comparison shopping for the lowest price on their mobile device or computer, dubbed “showrooming” In an effort to combat or “embrace” this phenomenon some retailers led by Best Buy have implemented strategies including price matching to convert more shoppers into buyers. Nobody is winning in this new game, manufacturers, retailers or the customer.

While I applaud retailers’ recognition that mobile technology is here to stay and for building a strategy they can use to their advantage, they are embracing short term solutions at best. Just as Ebenezer Scrooge clung to his tight-fisted and greedy ways before he was enlightened, retailers and manufacturers need to embrace new methodologies and practices to combat “showrooming” as price matching may have a negative impact on everyone in the purchase stream, not just the retailer.

What’s the Scrooge-factor for retailers? Sadly, retailers may find themselves matching prices with unauthorized, fly-by-night retailers that have a few units. While the rogue sellers have very little inventory they can impact price matching generated by algorithmic price dropping which results in margin pressure on everybody. As bricks and mortars begin to match the price with online retailers they will have less money available to promote sales in their stores, maintain the requisite levels of employees needed for great customer service and will drop lines that are no longer profitable.

Bah, humbug effect

Ebenezer has a “bah, humbug” effect on manufacturers as retailers responding to the ever decreasing prices below minimum advertised prices or suggested retail prices often look to the manufacturers for financial compensation. This compensation can come in the form of deductions from invoices being paid, demands for other discounts or other benefits to help subsidize the retailers’ marketing decision to match the lower online price.

The manufacturers’ sales force need to spend quality time promoting the benefits of their products to retailers to ensure the consumer becomes a satisfied purchaser. The price gauging turns the sales team attention to why one retailer is getting a lower price than another. Ultimately, manufacturers may be forced to only work with retailers who sell their products for the value the manufacturer attaches to the product.

The money that the manufacturer is forced to spend on compensating retailers, monitoring price issues and dedicating resources to detail with the resulting customer service issues has to come from somewhere. , It may result in the loss of jobs, reduced marketing and research and development budgets.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come has negative consequences for the “showrooming”-addicted consumer as well. While the consumer will have short term gains with reduced prices, the long term forecast will likely result in fewer choices, less innovation and reduced quality as the manufacturers seeks to eke out acceptable margins.

As an industry, we must continue to look for ways to promote products that protect reasonable margins for the retailer and manufacturer while still providing value for the consumer. As the number of smart phones and comparison shopping tools increase, the impact of “showrooming” will continue to mushroom and everyone but a select few will lose.

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Jeff Mariola is CEO of DigitalBrandWorks, a digital consultancy which specializes in representing manufacturers in the digital marketplaces and ensuring proper overall representation of product's pricing and content online. Previously, Mariola served as President of Ambius, the premier creator of ambience for businesses and a division of Rentokil Initial plc., (LSE: RTO) a publicly traded international business-to-business service organization based in the UK, where he led the company’s European and North American businesses.

By Jeff MariolaAs the holiday season swings into gear so does competitive shopping with consumers scoping out merchandise in physical stores and then com...

Shoppers in the trenches: Holiday shopping is well under way

Clothing, electronics and gift cards are popular items this year

Say what you will about the economy, consumer confidence and all the rest. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) holiday consumer spending survey finds 53.8% of shoppers say they have already started their holiday shopping

According to the NRF survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, just 46.2% say they have yet to start -- the smallest percent in the survey’s history.

"Shopping early has become a very real trend with consumers today as they look for ways to spread out their budget, and retailers have answered their call with attractive holiday offerings as early as October,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Holiday shoppers will have ample opportunities to find the perfect gift; whether online using free shipping or in store on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, given the competitive nature of the season, consumers will be the clear winners this year.”

Clothing is king

With plans to spend slightly less than last year, consumers will shop for both value and price when checking items off their holiday lists. The most popular choice: clothing and clothing accessories. According to the survey, nearly six in 10 (60.7%) consumers will splurge on fashion and apparel items and other accessories.

Granting their loved ones' wishes, 59.2% of holiday shoppers will also splurge on gift cards, which have come in as the most-requested gift item for seven years in a row. Additionally, 44.3% of people say they will buy toys, 23.3% will buy jewelry items, and 19.0% will buy sporting goods and leisure items.

New tablets and even smart watches will drive more people to give the gift of electronics this year: one-third (33.0%) will buy electronics and/or computer items and accessories, compared with 31.8% last year and the highest percent seen since 2006.

Watching the wallet

“Even with smaller budgets this year, consumers will still splurge on popular discretionary-type gifts for their friends and family, but will shop around and compare prices as they’ve done for years,” said Prosper’s Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “Looking for inspiration online and on their social media channels, many budget-conscious shoppers will also look for ways to surprise their loved ones with homemade and personal gifts.”

The survey also found shoppers prefer to use money they already have or have saved up to purchase holiday gifts, consistent with results seen over past three years. More than four in 10 (43.7%) will rely on debit cards as their primary form of payment. An additional 25.4% will use cash and 2.4% will use a check. Nearly three in 10 (28.5%) will charge their gifts.

When it comes to looking for inspiration for holiday gifts, traditional search methods will prevail, but tips from social media will be popular as well. According to the survey, 47.9% of consumers said they will look for holiday gift ideas online and 36.0% will check out retailers’ advertising circulars. Two in 10 (22.2%) will peruse magazines for ideas, 21.5% will look into email advertisements and 14.0% will use Facebook. Proving they are still seen as a value to shoppers, more than one-third (33.7%) of consumers say they will seek ideas from catalogs. Additionally, 10.1% will use retailers’ apps, versus 8.7% last year, and 7.2 percent will use Pinterest, up 2.4% from last year.

Say what you will about the economy, consumer confidence and all the rest. The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) holiday consumer spending survey finds 53...

Mobile and local: The way to shop this holiday season

Rising smartphone ownership is expected to make a big impact

The digital shopping route appears to be the way many consumers will take when it comes to gift-buying this holiday season, while others will patronize local small businesses.

According to Deloitte's 28th annual survey of holiday spending intentions and trends, the fact that smartphone ownership has risen to 61% of respondents from 42% just two years ago suggests consumers will rely heavily on digital bargain hunting.

Women, younger generations and households earning less than $100,000 annually showed the most significant leaps in smartphone ownership, expanding the base of shoppers that retailers can access via mobile devices. For example, nearly six in 10 (59%) of women surveyed own smartphones, up 13% from last year, and 79% of consumers ages 18-24 own a smartphone.

Smartphones and tablets

Among smartphone owners, nearly seven in 10 (68%) plan to use their devices for holiday shopping. These consumers will primarily use smartphones to search for store locations (56%), check and compare prices (54%) and obtain product information (47%).

Consumers that use smartphones to assist in holiday shopping will likely help retailers' registers jingle this year, as these shoppers plan to spend 27% more on holiday gifts than non-smartphone owners.

The survey also found a significant number of consumers expecting to shop using their tablets. Among the 38 percent of respondents that own tablets, nearly two-thirds (63%) indicate they plan to use it for holiday shopping this year, with "shop or browse online" ranking as the No. 1 activity.

"Tablets are a two-way street for retailers," said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and retail & distribution sector leader. "They have opened up an entirely new consumer touchpoint, where shoppers can view multiple retailers' products regardless of their location -- from their couch to the point of purchase. Retailers can also put tablets to work in their stores, providing both their sales team and customers with a broader lens into merchandise selection. Now that the majority of consumers also own smartphones, these two devices have altered the way they interact with a brand, while also yielding a higher spend per customer."

Close to home

This year, two-thirds (66%) of shoppers plan to shop locally at small businesses, independent retailers or boutique shops which are not part of national chains.

The survey indicates that one-third (34%) of consumers' budgets will be spent at local stores. Among the reasons for shopping locally, consumers cite desire to support the local economy (60%), to find one-of-a-kind gifts (53%) and because it is more convenient (44%). Nearly one-third (30% report having greater loyalty for the local store over national chains.

Stores still in the running

While the Internet ranks as the top shopping destination for the 2013 holiday season, 37% of respondents still prefer shopping in a physical store rather than online for holiday products. Service levels continue to influence respondents' willingness to give a retailer their business.

More than half (54%) of shoppers say that knowledgeable store associates will lead them to making an in-store purchase, and 32% feel store associates can provide customers a better shopping experience when equipped with the latest mobile technologies. Yet, nearly six in 10 (59%) shoppers feel they are better connected to consumer information, including coupons, competitive pricing and product availability, than store associates.

"In the store, retail associates can be engaged to drive loyalty rather than just complete a transaction," Paul noted. "The most successful retailers are empowering their associates to become devoted brand advocates who are knowledgeable, connected online, have the authority to price match and are aware of products available through other channels."

Retailers also benefit from providing shoppers with self-help technology in the store. Nearly six in 10 (58%) of shoppers will use self-help technologies -- the most common being price checkers (60%) and self-checkout payment lanes (57%).

The digital shopping route appears to be the way many consumers will take when it comes to gift-buying this holiday season, while others will patronize loc...

The Internet is the place to be this Christmas shopping season

Deloitte's annual holiday survey says almost half of us will shop online

Offers like free shipping, free returns and in-store pickup will help make the Internet the top holiday shopping destination for the first time, according to Deloitte's 28th annual survey of holiday spending intentions and trends.

The survey found that shoppers plan to shell out an average of $421 on gifts this year, compared with $386 last year. They also expect to buy an average of 12.9 gifts, ending a five-year decline in the number of gifts they plan to purchase.

Another positive sign in holiday shopping, says Deloitte: an increase in discretionary and non-gift spending. The amount consumers plan to spend on non-gift items for themselves or their families is up 14% from 2012, while spending on home and holiday furnishings is expected to jump 25% from last year.

Consumer confidence

Additionally, according to the survey, consumers appear more confident in the economy's prospects. More than half (54%) believe the economy is on the rebound, an increase of 22 percentage points in the past two years.

"The survey reveals a brighter consumer spending outlook than we've seen in several years," said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and retail & distribution sector leader. "Consumers are feeling more generous about gift spending, and we are encouraged by their plans to spend more on going out for celebrations, decorating their homes and treating themselves and their families to 'early gifts' while holiday shopping this year.”

Paul says that while the government shutdown and concerns about the debt cieling had the potential to dampen consumer sentiment, “the settlement likely averted any significant impact on the holiday season. The timely resolution of those issues may also give consumers an extra confidence boost just as promotions start hitting the stores and the shopping season gets underway."

Internet yea, discount stores nay

The Internet moved into the top spot among holiday shopping destinations for the first time in its 15 years represented in the survey, bumping discount/value department stores from the No. 1 position. Nearly half (47%) of consumers plan to purchase items online, followed by 44 percent at discount/value stores.

When choosing where to shop, consumers are motivated by more than just a bargain, emphasizing factors like convenience and selection. More than three-quarters (76%) cite convenience as a reason for shopping online, followed by price (63%).

The omnichannel shopper is most likely to make retailers' spirits bright. Those who shop a combination of store, Internet and mobile channels say they plan to spend a total of $1,643 on the holidays, 76% more than those who shop in the store only.

Bargain hunting

Despite higher spending potential, online shoppers will challenge retailers to be on their game when it comes to product selection and availability. Nearly eight in 10 (77%) say that if a product is not available on a store's website, they'll go elsewhere, while only 13% would go to that same retailer's store. In addition, 45% of all respondents indicated they would switch to an entirely different store chain or website if they can't find the desired item in a retailer's store.

"Shoppers put a premium on both their time and the shopping experience," noted Paul. "That shift bodes well for retailers as it suggests shoppers are no longer exclusively price driven. However, immediacy, service and selection will be paramount this year, and retailers need to offer a seamless, easy to navigate experience between their online, mobile and brick-and-mortar channels."

Shoppers want it all

Despite greater confidence in the economy's prospects, improved spending intentions and a focus on convenience, consumers still rank promotions high on their shopping lists. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers say their holiday spending will be influenced by coupons or promotional offers.

More than seven in 10 (71%) say they plan to take advantage of free shipping offers, while nearly half (47%) expect free returns. More than four in 10 (44%) intend to take retailers up on price-matching guarantees, 36% say they will shop extended hours and 35% plan to order online for in-store pickup.

Retailers may also have good reason to roll out the promotions early this year: the number of consumers who say they expect to complete the majority of their shopping by early November (30 percent) rose five percentage points from last year. One-quarter (25%) plan to shop on Black Friday and 24% plan to do so on Cyber Monday, although nearly half (45%) indicate that Black Friday isn't as important as it used to be.

Offers like free shipping, free returns and in-store pickup will help make the Internet the top holiday shopping destination for the first time, according ...

Free shipping: It's almost everywhere

Retailers who want your business aren't wasting any time

What's almost as good as a great bargain on merchandise? A lot of people would say “free shipping,” and it shouldn't be hard to find this Christmas shopping season.

Shop.org’s eHoliday survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, finds 16.3% of retailers will offer their first holiday free shipping offer by the week of October 28. More than one-third (34.9%) say they already offer year-round free shipping, versus to 23.1% last year. Additionally, more than half (51.2%) of online retailers surveyed plan to start their online holiday marketing promotions by Halloween.

And this isn't a spur-of-the-moment thing. When Shop.org asked online retailers when they have or will start planning for the 2013 holiday season, more than three-quarters (74.4%) said they had started planning by July.

“Retailers have been preparing for holiday for months, smartly investing in what’s important to online shoppers: value, free shipping, a user-friendly site, and flexible returns, among other features,” said Shop.org Executive Director Vicki Cantrell. “Retailers understand that holiday shoppers also look for merchandise selection and quality, and have boosted inventory to offer ample selection and exclusive products to help customers find just the right gift for everyone on their list.”

Ready for digital shopping

Knowing that consumers increasingly use their smartphones and tablets to research and purchase products, retailers have prepared accordingly. More than half (57.4%) have invested in optimizing their mobile websites, nearly four in 10 (38.3%) have invested heavily in the smartphone user experience, and one-quarter (25.5%) say they invested in mobile commerce apps for smartphones.

Retailers will also tap specific mobile marketing tools to attract holiday shoppers this year. At the top of the list of mobile tactics for over half (55.3%) of retailers: mobile email optimization. Additionally, 44.7% will use smartphone paid search campaigns, two in five (21.3%) will use SMS campaigns, and 17.0% will use QR codes or other barcode scanning promotions.

Online retailers also were asked about their budgets for holiday marketing and promotions. According to the survey, 68.8% of online retailers say that at least 20% of their total 2013 online marketing budget goes towards holiday marketing, and two-thirds (66.6%) say that at least 20% of their total online promotions budget goes towards holiday promotions.

Economy a factor

The economy has had an impact on how retailers have changed their plans for the 2013 holiday season. Specifically, more than one-quarter (27.3%) say they will offer free shipping earlier because of the economy. Discounts will also come earlier: according to the survey, 31.8% plan to offer discounts earlier than they did last year, and another 31.8% will increase their use of daily deals for their customers.

Looking for heightened return on their investment, many companies will focus more on social media this year. More than half (54.8%) will increase their use of Facebook in November and December, and 59.5% will increase their use of Pinterest. Additionally, 55.0% of companies surveyed will increase their use of Instagram.

What's almost as good as a great bargain on merchandise? A lot of people would say “free shipping,” and it shouldn't be hard to find this Christmas shoppin...

Consumers to put Santa on a diet

A new survey finds economic worries may prompt shoppers to cut back this year

The holiday season may not be as jolly this year.

The National Retail Federation's (NRF) holiday consumer spending survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, finds that consumers facing continued economic uncertainty and used to doing more with less will take a conservative approach to spending this holiday season.

As a result, the survey projects the average holiday shopper will spend $737.95 on gifts, decor, greeting cards and more -- 2% less than the $752.24 they actually spent last year. Overall, NRF is forecasting holiday sales will rise 3.9% -- to $602.1 billion.

“Though the foundation for solid holiday season growth exists, Americans are questioning the stability of our economy, our government and their own finances,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “We expect consumers to set a modest budget for gifts and other holiday related purchases as they wait and see what will become of the U.S. economy in the coming months.

The Washington effect

For the first time, NRF asked holiday shoppers if the political gridlock in Washington around U.S. fiscal concerns would affect their holiday spending plans. On average, 29% said the situation would somewhat or very likely affect their spending plans. Nearly one-third (32.7%) of those between the ages of 55 and 64 said political gridlock in Washington was somewhat or very likely to affect their spending -- the highest percent among all age groups surveyed.

When asked specifically about the overall state of the economy and how it would affect their spending plans, more than half (51.0%) of consumers said the economy would in some way have an impact on how they spend this holiday season. Specifically, 79.5% say they'll spend less overall, cutting corners and tightening budgets where they can.

Family and friends first

In order to make room in their budgets this year, consumers will cut back on so-called “self-gifting,” or treating themselves to something because the deals are too good to pass up. When asked if they plan to take advantage of sales or price discounts during the holiday season to make additional non-gift purchases, 57.0% said “yes,” down 2% from last year. Self-gifters will spend an average of $129.62 this year, compared with a survey high of $140.43 last year and $137.17 in 2011.

According to the survey, the biggest portion of shoppers’ budget will go towards gifts for family members, with the average person planning to spend $415.50 on mom, dad and other loved ones; last year they spent $423.36. Additionally, people will spend $72.14 on friends, $23.59 on co-workers and $25.63 on others, such as pets and community members.

Consumers will also spend on food and candy ($100.35), greeting cards ($28.03) and flowers ($21.12). When it comes to decorations, the average person will spend $51.60. Total spending on holiday decor will reach $6.8 billion.

“Consumers have had years of practice when it comes to managing tight budgets while still spending on items they need to, whether it be gifts or groceries for the family,” said Prosper Insights Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “Retailers can expect to see practical and refined attitudes from their customers this holiday season as families make thoughtful decisions about what they need to buy and what they can pass on.”

Early shopping

Consistent with results seen the past 11 years, four in 10 (41.2%) consumers say they will begin holiday shopping before Halloween. Specifically, 12.4$ say they started before September, 8.2% began in September, and 20.6% say they'll get started in October. More than one-third (38.8%) will begin in November and 16.0% plan to start shopping in the first two weeks of December. Almost four percent (3.9%) will wait until last minute and shop in the last two weeks of the month.

For the first time, shoppers were asked why they shop early. Of those who shop prior to or in September and October, six in 10 (60.3%) do so to spread out their gift shopping budget. Another four in 10 (41.9%) said the prices and promotions are too good to pass up. Additionally, 46.5% shop early to avoid the crowds associated with November and December shopping, and 44.2% do so to avoid the stress of last-minute shopping.

Where they shop

With plenty of options to shop around for the best value, consumers will look to discounters (64.7%), department stores (56.3%), and grocery stores (51.1%) for their gifts and goods this holiday season. More than half (51.5%) will shop online and 35.1% will shop at clothing or accessories stores. Additionally, 29.5% will shop at electronics stores and 20.9% will shop at drug stores.

Whether to comparison shop or look for deals on their mobile device while out and about, the Internet will play a crucial role for retailers and shoppers this year. The average person will complete about 39.5% of her shopping on retail and other company websites, compared with 38.8% last year and the highest amount in the survey’s history. Shop.org, NRF’s digital division, is forecasting online holiday sales will grow between 13 and 15% to as much as $82 billion.

Using smartphones and tablets

As retailers improve their mobile websites and company apps, more people are drawn to the convenience of shopping using their mobile and tablet devices. According to the survey, more than half (56.3%) of holiday shoppers say they own a smartphone, and more than one-third (34.0%) own a tablet -- both significantly higher than this time last year. Of those who own a smartphone, 53.8% will use their device to look up store hours, compare prices and purchase products; six in 10 (63.2%) tablet owners will use their device to shop, compare prices and look up product information.

Gift card popularity

When it comes to holiday wish lists, gift cards take the prize once again as the most requested gift item for the seventh year in a row. According to the survey, six in 10 (59.4%) people say they’d most like to receive gift cards. After a few years on the back burner, clothing and clothing accessories will fill wish lists with more than half (51.2%) requesting these items -- the highest amount seen since 2006.

More than one-third (36.1%) want electronics, one-quarter (23.3%) want jewelry and 20.8 percent want home decor or home-related furnishings.

Sales and discounts

Holiday shoppers fine tune their skills each year in order to maneuver the stores, discover the best free-shipping deals and perfect their hassle-free shopping experience. When it comes to decisions like where to shop, price and promotions are top-of-mind.

According to the survey, 35.6% said the most important factor in deciding where to shop is offers for sales and discounts, along with 16.4% who say the most important factor is selection of merchandise and 13.6% who say it’s quality of merchandise. Three percent (3.4%) rate free shipping or shipping promotions as the most important factor, versus 2.9% last year.

The holiday season may not be as jolly this year. The National Retail Federation's (NRF) holiday consumer spending survey, conducted by Prosper Insights ...

IBISWorld sees Halloween spending slowing

Concerns about the economy appear to be spooking consumers

An uncertain economic and political environment, the government shutdown and worries about the nation's debt limit are combining to produce a tightening of holiday budgets this year.

According to IBISWorld, an industry and market research concern, total Halloween spending is anticipated to grow only 3.0% -- to $7.63 billion this year, compared with a 17.8% surge in 2012. Consumers are seen cutting back on discretionary purchases, including costumes and candy, as they gear up for a more frugal Christmas shopping season.

In its annual Halloween spending survey released in September, the National Retail Federation also projected a slowdown a slowdown in Halloween spending.

Costumes

Consumers to spend $2.76 billion on costumes, up just 1.5% from last year when spending on costumes soared 29.5%, thanks to strong consumer sentiment. A little more than half (50.4%) of this category’s revenue will come from adult costumes, while 47.7% will be generated through the sale of children’s costumes and another 1.9% from pet costumes.

IBISWorld expects most of the growth in this category will be driven by sales of children’s costumes with consumers likely to cut back significantly on spending on their pets this Halloween.

Fewer adults are expected to celebrate Halloween , the result of worries about the government shutdown. Moreover, those choosing to party hardy are likely to spend less on an outfit than they did last year, in an effort to curb discretionary costs. Thus, only a meager uptick in spending is expected this year.

Candy

Candy is the second-largest expenditure category on Halloween. This year, it's expected to total $2.25 billion, an increase of 2.7% over 2012 when candy sales shot up 12.3%. Candy is a small purchase for most households, so spending on it is not expected to be as constrained as costumes. However, concerns may also contribute to weaker demand this year as shoppers turn to more health-conscious treats like apples and sugar-free snacks.

Decorations

Although spending on decorations is also slowing, IBISWorld anticipates this category will enjoy the strongest revenue growth this year jumping 6.7% to $2.23 billion. Demand for decorations remains strong compared with the others because they can be a small and inexpensive way to get into the holiday spirit. Moreover, with the prevalence of social networking sites like Pinterest that highlight and encourage do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, consumers will be keener on sprucing up their spaces this year.

Greeting Cards

Greeting cards are a highly discretionary purchase, especially on occasions that are not traditionally focused on the family, like Halloween. Shoppers are likely to opt for more decorative and festive expenditures in lieu of greeting cards, causing the category to decline about 5.0% to $385.1 million. Despite the rise in popularity of artisan paper goods, consumers that choose to send cards will likely engage in DIY projects or e-mail and social media greetings instead.

An uncertain economic and political environment, the government shutdown and worries about the nation's debt limit are combining to produce a tightening of...

Modest sales gains expected this holiday season

Al things considered, it's a pretty decent forecast

Okay -- it's only October. But in the dog-eat-dog world of retailing, it's never to early to start looking ahead to your most profitable time of year: the Christmas shopping season.

With that in mind, the National Retail Federation (NRF) says it expects sales in the months of November and December to increase 3.9% -- to $602.1 billion, compared with 2012’s actual 3.5 percent holiday season sales growth and the 10-year average holiday sales growth of 3.3%.

“Our forecast is a realistic look at where we are right now in this economy -- balancing continued uncertainty in Washington and an economy that has been teetering on incremental growth for years,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Overall, retailers are optimistic for the 2013 holiday season, hoping political debates over government spending and the debt ceiling do not erase any economic progress we’ve already made.”

Numerous factors

Given the current government shutdown and NRF’s holiday outlook, Shay says the forecast is “somewhat hinging on Congress and the administration’s actions over the next 45 days; without action, we face the potential of losing the faith Americans have in their leaders, and the pursuant decrease in consumer confidence.”

Economic variables including positive growth in the housing market and increased consumer appetite to buy larger-ticket items give retailers reason to be cautiously optimistic for solid holiday season gains. However, much remains up in the air, including fiscal concerns around the debt ceiling and government funding, income growth and even policies and actions surrounding foreign affairs, all of which could affect holiday sales. According to NRF, the holiday season can account for anywhere from 20-40 percent of a retailer’s annual sales, and accounts for approximately 20 percent of total industry annual sales.

“The economy continues to expand, albeit at an unspectacular pace,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz. “In order for consumers to turn out this holiday season, we need to see steady improvements in income and job growth, as well as an agreement from Washington that puts the economic recovery first. Our forecast leaves room for improvement, while at the same time provides a very realistic look at the state of the American consumer and their confidence in our economy.”

Online sales forecast

In its forecast for online sales, Shop.org says it expects sales in November and December to grow between 13-15% over last holiday season to as much as $82.0 billion.

The digitial trade organization calculates sales based on government data including consumer confidence, consumer credit, disposable personal income and previous monthly retail sales releases. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales rose increased 15.5% in the final three months of last year.

“Online and mobile continue to be a leading area of growth for retailers. In this economy savvy, cost-conscious consumers go to the web to do their research and get the best bang for their buck,” said Shay. “In addition to researching what their peers are saying online about products and gifts this holiday season, consumers will use the buy online pick-up in store option, retailers’ apps and mobile websites to find something special for their loved ones.”

Seasonal employment growth

NRF expects retailers will hire between 720,000 and 780,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, which is in line with the actual 720,500 they hired in last Christmas season, saw a 13% year-over-year increase from 2011.

“Retailers will add hundreds of thousands of valuable jobs to the economy this holiday season, including extra staff for their distribution centers, store managers, e-commerce and mobile positions and helpful staff associates,” said Shay. “Teenagers, college students and adults love working in retail during the holidays, especially with the perks of employee discounts and being the first to see what’s added to store shelves. Additionally, as we’ve heard from several companies, these holiday positions offer thousands of people the opportunity to turn seasonal employment into a long-term dynamic and thriving career opportunity.”

Okay -- it's only October. But in the dog-eat-dog world of retailing, it's never to early to start looking ahead to your most profitable time of year: the ...

Spooked by the economy? Fewer people to celebrate Halloween this year

A National Retail Federation survey says budgets will be trimmed, as well

Halloween sales may be cooler, along with the October weather, as fewer consumers plan to celebrate the holiday.

According to the National Retail Federation's (NRF) Halloween Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, nearly 158 million consumers will participate in Halloween activities, compared with the survey high of 170 million last year.

The survey also says that those who do celebrate will trim their budgets, with the average celebrant expected to spend $75.03 on decor, costumes, candy and fun, down nearly $5 from last year. Overall, average spending on Halloween has increased 54.7 percent since 2005, with total spending estimated to reach $6.9 billion this year.

“Still one of the most beloved and anticipated consumer holidays, Halloween will be far from a bust this year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “After a long summer, the arrival of fall will put millions of Americans in the spirit to partake in traditional and festive activities.”

How we spend

One of the most cherished parts of the holiday -- dressing in costume -- will once again be popular. According to the survey, 43.6% of people plan to dress up and will spend a total of $2.6 billion on traditional and awe-inspiring costumes. Specifically, consumers will shell out $1.04 billion on children’s costumes, and $1.22 billion on adult costumes.

When it comes to pets, 13.8% of those celebrating will take the extra time to find the perfect costume for their four-legged friends to the tune of approximately $330 million.

Additionally, celebrants will spend $2.08 billion on candy and $360 million on greeting cards. Second only to Christmas in terms of spending on decorations, consumers will shell out $1.96 billion on life-size skeletons, fake cob webs, mantle pieces and other festive decorations.

When we shop

For the first time, NRF asked when people will begin shopping for Halloween. According to the survey, nearly one-third (32.8%) begin shopping before September 30. An additional 67.2% of consumers will shop in October. Specifically, 43.6% will begin the first two weeks in October and 23.6% will wait until the final two weeks of the month.

When it comes to inspiration for costume ideas, one-third (32.9%) will search for costume ideas online, another third (32.8%) will look for new ideas in a store, and one-fifth (20.8%) will seek advice from friends or family. Additionally, 14.1% will check Facebook  for inspiration and 3.8% will review blogs.

Nearly one in 10 (9.3%) will scour the visually-appealing Pinterest for costume ideas, versus 7.1% last year. Of those buying or making costumes, the average person will spend $27.85 -- a few cents less than last year.

How we celebrate

There are a variety of ways consumers will celebrate this year, with handing out candy being the most popular (72.0%). Others will carve a pumpkin (44.2%), visit a haunted house (20.3%), take their child trick-or-treating (31.7%) and decorate their home and/or yard (47.5%). Three in 10 (30.9%) will attend or host a party.

Despite the anticipation of the popular fall event, one-fourth of U.S. consumers (25.2%) say the state of the economy will affect their Halloween spending plans -- nearly nine in 10 (86.1%) will spend less overall, up a touch from last year. Additionally, 32.7% will buy less candy and 18.1% will make a costume instead of buying one.

Halloween sales may be cooler, along with the October weather, as fewer consumers plan to celebrate the holiday. According to the National Retail Federat...

Would you believe a 10-hour battery life in forthcoming Chromebooks?

Latest line of Chromebooks will be based on new Intel processor that boosts efficiency

The world stops spinning when new iPhones come out and alarm bells ring when Microsoft shuffles executives, but in relative obscurity Google Chromebooks are carving out a big share of the laptop market, as geeky designers and end users find something inexpensive they can get excited about.

The latest news on the Chromebook front was revealed yesterday in San Francisco at the Intel Developer Forum, where execs said forthcoming Chromebooks will be based on Intel's Haswell processor family, noted for its power efficiency and computing prowess. 

"The battery life on the new Chromebooks will be up to 50% better, and the trick is also doing that while delivering amazing levels of performance," said Navin Shenoy, VP of Intel's PC client group and general manager of the mobile platform division, in a press briefing. "And we'll see 15% or more improvement on performance using Haswell."

It was, technerds will recall, a Haswell-based Core i5 that helped double the battery life of Apple's latest MacBook Air, launched in June.

There will also soon be more versions of the Chromebook. as Asus and Toshiba are joining current Chromebook makers Acer, HP, Lenovo and Samsung. There's also a high-end Chromebook, the Pixel, that carries the Google brand.

Retailing giants Best Buy, Staples and Walmart are all promoting the Chromebooks heavily. Prices start in the low $200 range, yet the little machines deliver performance and durability that rival full-fledged desktop-equivalent machines costing five or six times as much.

They boot up in seconds, don't require anti-virus software and updates are performed in the background. Chromebooks work with cloud-based apps that provide a full office suite and a wide range of productivity and entertainment functions.

A Lenovo ChromebookThe world stops spinning when new iPhones come out and alarm bells ring when Microsoft shuffles executives, but in relative obscurit...

Consumers a Little More Upbeat This Holiday Season, Survey Shows

U.S. households plan to spend an average of $521 on gifts

A lot of folks could be in for a merrier Christmas this year.

U.S. households are expected to spend an average of $521 on gifts this holiday season, according to The Conference Board. Nearly 10 percent of consumers said they plan to spend more on holiday gifts this year, up about three percent from last year. Approximately 31 percent plan to spend less than last year, compared with 40 percent a year ago.

"As the holiday season approaches, consumers appear to be in better spirits than last year," says Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. "Our survey results show a slight boost in holiday spending intentions. Retailers are cautiously optimistic that this holiday shopping season will be better than last."

Bargain hunting

Consumers will be searching for bargains this holiday season, with more than one-third saying they expect more than half of their purchases to be on sale or discounted. Nearly 70 percent expect to purchase a portion of their holiday gifts online, with about 20 percent saying more than half of their gifts will be purchased online.

The survey of holiday gift spending intentions, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board in October by Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch.  

A lot of folks could be in for a merrier Christmas this year. U.S. households are expected to spend an average of $521 on gifts this holiday season, accor...

Retailers Brace for Choosy Holiday Shoppers

Stores offering bargains earlier in hopes of luring thrifty shoppers

Last year most consumers waited for Black Friday to start their holiday shopping, looking extra hard for bargains that would stretch gift budgets. This year retailers are hoping to lure them into shopping earlier and spending more.

Already major retailers have rolled out promotions and bargains. Best Buy and Target have pledged to match prices of a handful of online competitors, including Amazon.com.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), relying on a survey conducted by BIGinsight, predicts the average holiday shopper will spend $749.51 on gifts, décor, greeting cards and more -- up slightly from the $740.57 they spent last year. NRF is forecasting holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion.

Attracting bargain-conscious consumers

"We’ve seen this pattern of cautious optimism all year and despite the challenges that still exist in our economy, it looks as if consumers are eager to celebrate with friends and family,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “As the most promotional time of the year, retailers will continue to look for ways to stand out, specifically with attractive deals on toys, electronics and apparel, even well before the ‘official’ start of the holiday shopping season -- Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”

According to the survey, the biggest portion of shoppers’ budgets this year will go towards gifts for family members with the average person planning to spend $421.82 on children, parents, aunt, uncles and other family members. Additionally, people will spend $75.13 on friends, $23.48 on co-workers and $28.13 on others, such as pets and community members.

Consumers will also spend $100.76 on food and candy, $51.99 on decorations, $28.66 on greeting cards and $19.55 on flowers. Total spending on holiday décor will reach $6.9 billion, the survey predicts. But with all that spending, consumers will be focused on the best deals.

Economy still taking a toll

“More than half of Americans this holiday season will feel the impact of the economy and will compensate by doing what they’ve been doing for several years -- looking for ways to cut any corners, comparative shop online and in stores more often, and even planning to travel less or not at all,” said Shay.

For that reason, consumers say stores that offer the best deals will get their dollars. Thirty-six percent said the most important factor in deciding where to shop are offers for sales and discounts, along with 16.1 percent who say the most important factor is selection of merchandise and 13.7 percent who say it’s quality of merchandise.

Gift cards top wish list

And what will consumers be shopping for this year? The usual suspects top the list in the survey: clothing, DVDs and electronics. But six in 10 consumers said this year they would prefer to receive a gift card, so they could buy whatever they want.

And some are not waiting to receive a gift card but buying for themselves while they are out shopping for others. The survey finds “self-gift,” particularly among the young, is a growing holiday trend.

“It looks like young adults have the ‘one for you two for me’ mentality about the holiday season this year, which is surprising given that this is also the age group that typically doesn’t have the income or ability to splurge,” said BIGinsight Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “What isn’t surprising is that retailers’ holiday promotions continue to strike a chord with this age group, especially with promotions surrounding popular electronics and apparel items.”

Last year most consumers waited for Black Friday to start their holiday shopping, looking extra hard for bargains that would stretch gift budgets. This yea...

Survey: Most Consumers Think the Economy Is in 'Bad' or 'Terrible' Shape

Nearly 25 percent think It will be difficult to purchase needed items over the next several months

We've been hearing a lot lately on how well folks are doing financially. Well, that may or may not be the case. 

A new survey by RetailMeNot.com, the largest U.S. online coupon site, finds that 71% of consumers have a dismal view of the economy. Further, 1 in 4 are worried about being able to make all the necessary purchases in the coming months. Only 3% of respondents felt that the economy is in "good shape." 

"Our most recent survey looked at how consumers plan to shop for the remainder of the year. We believe a lackluster economy combined with high demand for discounts while shopping will lead to more frequent and higher first-time use of coupons over time," said Kristen Remeza, editor-in-chief of RetailMeNot Insider. "As shopping for the holidays -- in-store and online -- begins to gain steam, there are two other findings of note: First, nearly a third of consumers -- 31% -- intend to do their holiday shopping online in 2012. Second, 39% of consumers start their holiday shopping before November." 

The results of the survey found these shopping behaviors for the upcoming "holiday" shopping period: 

  • 39% of respondents start their holiday shopping before November.
  • Women (46%) are more likely than men (31%) to start their shopping earlier than November.
  • 23% of respondents start shopping in early November, 12% wait to start shopping until Black Friday/Cyber Monday and only 15% wait until after Cyber Monday to begin shopping.
  • 54% of respondents finish their holiday shopping sometime between Black Friday and when they actually give away the gift during the holidays.
  • Nearly 1 in 3 respondents (32%) say they are done with their holiday shopping by the end of Cyber Monday.
  • Women (58%) are more likely than men (50%) to say they tend to finish their holiday shopping after Cyber Monday.
  • Nearly a third of respondents (31%) intend to do their holiday shopping online in 2012 vs. a majority who intend to shop in-store (59%).
  • More than 70% of consumers (71%) think the economy is in "bad" or "terrible" shape.
  • A quarter (25%) believe that the economy is in "okay" shape, and fewer than 1 in 20 think that it is in "good" (3%) or "fantastic" (1%) shape.
  • Those 55 years old and over have a particularly negative view of the economy, with nearly 8 in 10 respondents (78%) saying that it is in "bad" or "terrible" shape – including 37% who think it is in terrible shape -- compared to 61% of those under 35.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 (24%) feel it will be difficult to purchase things they need over the next several months.
  • 4 in 10 respondents (40%) say that they should be able to get most of what they need in the coming months, but not be able to afford it all.
  • Only about a third of respondents (36%) are not worried about being able to buy all the things they need in the coming months.
We've been hearing a lot lately on how folks are doing financially. Well, that may or may not be the case....

Budgeting to Play Big Role in Holiday Shopping

Price is the chief factor in deciding where to spend

If retailers need yet another reminder that this Christmas shopping season will be challenging, consumers are happy to oblige.

According to the National Retail Federation's 2008 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $832.36 on holiday-related shopping an increase of less than 2 percent from year's $816.69. This represents the lowest increase in planned consumer spending since the survey began in 2002.

Though shoppers choose to visit stores for different reasons, consumers say one factor will play the biggest role in buying decisions this year: price. According to the survey, 40.0 percent of shoppers say that sales or promotions is the largest factor when determining where to shop, while another 12.6 percent state that everyday low prices are most important.

Other consumers rated selection and merchandise quality as the primary factor. Only a handful of consumers said they are making buying decisions based on a convenient location or helpful customer service this year.

"Retailers are going into this holiday season with their eyes wide open, knowing that savings and promotions will be the main incentive for shoppers," said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. "No one is canceling Christmas because money is tight, but consumers will be sticking to their budgets and looking for good deals when deciding where to spend this holiday season."

As in previous years, gift giving is the largest component of shoppers' budgets. This year, the average person will spend $466.13 on gifts for family, $94.52 on friends, $26.70 on co-workers, and $43.50 on other gifts.

For the first time in the survey's history, people say they plan to spend less on gifts for family members ($466.13 in 2008 vs. $469.14 last year). Spending is expected to be particularly weak among young adults, as 18-24 year-olds plan to spend $50 less on gifts than one year ago.

"It might not be easy to pull back on small gifts for a co-worker or a child's teacher, but consumers feel like their family understands their current situation," said Phil Rist, Vice President of Strategy for BIGresearch. "Americans might eliminate an extended family gift exchange or buy one big present for all of the kids to compensate for a budget-friendly Christmas this year."

According to the survey, 40.2 percent of consumers will start their shopping before Halloween. This figure is consistent with numbers from previous years and demonstrates that bargain hunters are looking for ways to spread out spending over a period of time.

With sales and promotions the theme of the 2008 holiday season, it's no surprise that most consumers plan to do some shopping at discount stores. Additionally, more than half of American adults plan to shop at department stores, while more than one-third of shoppers plan to shop at clothing and electronics stores.

As the Internet becomes more of a mainstay in the retail landscape, Americans are heading online to compare prices, research retail locations, and look for gift ideas before heading to stores. Although the number of people buying gifts online is expected to remain flat over last year, shoppers will rely on the Internet more than ever to browse for holiday gifts and research products. According to the survey, the Internet will influence 33.6 percent of holiday purchases, up from 30.2 percent last year and 28.9 percent in 2006.

Though most consumers plan to stick to a budget this season, many are padding it with a little something extra. Knowing that the holidays often abound with good deals, more than half of shoppers are planning to make additional non-gift purchases for themselves or their families this holiday.

Some may have even been holding back on personal purchases for the last few months to take advantage of holiday pricing. Shoppers will spend an average of $119.83 on these purchases, up from $106.67 last year.

NRF continues to expect holiday sales to increase 2.2 percent to $470.4 billion.

Budgeting to Play Big Role in Holiday Shopping...

Santa's Feeling Pinched This Year

Consumers say they'll shop later, many will spend less


Tis the season to give, but thats not the case for all Americans this holiday season.

According to a new Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll, nearly one-quarter (23%) of respondents anticipate they will spend less than last year.

CRs poll also found that the shopping season may get off to a slower start this year. Only 22 percent of consumers anticipate finishing holiday shopping right after Thanksgiving, compared with 30 percent in 2006.

Forty-five percent of those asked said they do not anticipate finishing their shopping until the second week of December, and 20 percent said they would be pushing it right to December 24th. Approximately 6 percent are resigned not to complete their shopping until after the holidays.

Our findings suggest that consumers are tightening their wallets this year more so than last year, said Tod Marks, senior editor, Consumer Reports. The holiday shopping landscape is vast. Consumers need to make well informed decisions on their budget and on their purchases to alleviate the large bills and possibly disappointed gift recipients.

The poll finds:

Make a List and Check it Twice: Budgets

• If you want to control your spending over the holidays, consider making a budget before you begin to shop. Among the 33 percent of consumers who made a budget for last year, 43 percent managed to stay on budget, with only 8 percent going way over budget.

• Two-thirds of consumers (66%) did not make a budget last year nor do they plan on making one for this year (57%). The most likely candidates for making those budgets are women (47%) and households with young children (53%)

Do You Really Want to Buy That?

• The number one gift consumers are planning to buy for the 2007 holiday season is clothing (71%). That was the category of gifts received in 2006 that triggered the most disappointment among recipients (38%). Fifty percent of men said they were disappointed to receive various types of clothing for the 2006 holidays including socks, sweaters and shirts.

• The number two gift consumers are planning to buy for 2007 is gift cards (62%), followed by electronics (53%)

• This year, the Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll results suggest that gift-givers may want to opt for electronics. The poll found that consumers would most like to receive electronics gifts (19%), followed by gift cards (12%). Men, by far, wanted electronics the most (25%). The top gifts women want are gift cards (15%) and electronics (13%).

• Consumers should look closely at the gifts they receive this holiday they may have been re-gifted. Nearly one-quarter of those surveyed (24%) admitted to re-gifting a present for the 2006 holidays. The most likely suspects are women (27%). Only 21% of men admitted to ever re-gifting.

The Cyber Consumer

• Online shopping this season will continue to be a well-utilized alternative to going to a traditional brick-and-mortar store. The majority of consumers (65%) plan to do at least some holiday shopping online.

• Men (23%) are more likely than women (13%) to do more of their shopping online this holiday season.

Saying No to Extended Warranties Continues

• When buying home electronics or major appliances, 37 percent of consumers will opt for an extended warranty. This percentage is down 5 percent from 2006 when 42 percent of consumers said they would purchase one.

• Consistent with last years findings, shoppers aged 18-34 are more likely to opt for an extended warranty (69%) than others. Thirty-six percent of consumers aged 35-54 said they would purchase an extended warranty, while only 27% of those 55 and older said they would do so.

Santa's Feeling Pinched This Year...

Holiday Shoppers Running Up Debt


Buy now, pay later. Much later, according to a new poll of holiday shoppers by Consumer Reports.

According to the survey, 23% of Americans will not pay off their holiday debt until March or later, equaling $14.6 billion in interest-accruing debt.

Over one-quarter of Americans (26%) use credit cards most often when holiday shopping, contributing to the $63.6 billion charged on credit cards throughout the shopping season.

"Credit cards can be hazardous to your holiday spending," said Tod Marks, senior editor, Consumer Reports. "With the average household saddled with $9,000 in credit debt already, anything that significantly adds to that impost could be potentially devastating. Cash forces you to be much more disciplined, purchasing only what you can afford."

The Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll also finds:

• Among those using credit cards to pay for holiday gifts, 17% or more plan on accumulating $1,000 or more in holiday charges.

• With little more than two weeks to go until Christmas, re-gifting becomes an attractive option. A noteworthy proportion of consumers (13%) are planning on re-gifting. Men are more likely to re-gift (17%) than women (10%).

• After the holidays, 16% of consumers plan on returning some of the gifts they received. Men (21%) are more likely than women (12%) to return some of their gifts.

• Shoppers, on average, will buy about 15 gifts for the holidays-married women will buy the most (19); about 40% more than their husbands (13).

• As of December 10th, with only weeks left in the holiday shopping season, one-third of Americans had not even begun their holiday shopping.

• 30% or 62 million shoppers say that they won't finish their holiday shopping until December 23rd or later. More than 1 in 10 shoppers (11%) don't anticipate finishing their holiday shopping until the evening of December 24th.

Holiday Shoppers Running Up Debt...

Consumer Reports Unveils Annual Holiday Guide


Consumer Reports online has unveiled its annual Holiday Giving Guide to provide free expert advice for online shopping as well as Hanukkah and Christmas gift ideas.

Complete with useful shopping tips in areas including Games & Recreation, Home, Health, and Shopping & Spending, the guide also features e-Ratings, unbiased evaluations of online shopping sites.

To ensure that people are prepared for the holidays with the latest information, the guide will be updated throughout this Hanukkah and Christmas holiday season with new postings.

"Early holiday shoppers can consult the ConsumerReports.org Holiday Giving Guide for a wide variety of gift selections," said Helen Popkin, Associate Editor of ConsumerReports.org. "The holiday section is easy to navigate and empowers online users to shop smarter and faster, while knowing that they are getting expert advice on products, services, and great tips for the holiday season."

In this year's guide, shoppers will find valuable information from the best suggested Hanukkah and Christmas gift ideas to the finest online shopping sites, as well as invaluable tips and advice for the holidays.

Among Consumer Report's advice for tending to your physical - and emotional - health during the holiday season:

• Be selective about food -- decide on what you want to indulge in and keep portions small.

• Drink up -- drink plenty of water throughout the day -- at least eight glasses -- to keep from eating when you are actually thirsty.

• Go easy on the alcohol -- try not to drink too much at holiday.

• Make exercise a group effort -- take a walk around your neighborhood to admire holiday decorations with your family and loved ones.

• Enjoy the great outdoors -- remember, your body burns extra calories just keeping warm.

• Cut everyone some slack; the holidays are a time to be more tolerant and understanding towards your friends, family, coworkers and yourself.

• Expect less of yourself -- skip the less important holiday rituals and focus on activities that lighten your heart and bring out the deeper meaning of the holidays.

Additionally, the guide provides useful guidance on extended warranties, Hanukkah and Christmas gift return policies and holiday tipping.

Among Consumer Report's advice for tipping at the holidays:

• Reward those who make a difference -- see who makes the biggest impact on you and reward them accordingly.

• Think about those whose services you frequently use -- these people may include beauticians, barbers, or the newspaper carrier.

• Tip those who go out of their way for you -- these people may include water-delivery people who lug heavy jugs for you and giving non-cash gifts to postal service workers and schoolteachers.

Consumer Reports Unveils Annual Holiday Guide...