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, dÃ©cor, 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 dÃ©cor 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."