By  on October 9, 2012

Consumers’ holiday shopping budgets are likely to expand for 2012, although the loosening of the purse strings might be put on hold until after Election Day.

According to The NPD Group’s 11th annual holiday survey, the percentage of consumers intending to spend more this year than last rose to 10 percent from 9 percent a year ago. The shifts were larger among those who plan to spend the same — up to 67 percent from 64 percent in 2011 — and those who plan to spend less — down to 23 percent from 27 percent.

The survey detected several signs of continuing thrift among the general public. The percentage who expect to shop for themselves dropped to 17 percent from 19 percent a year ago.

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When consumers were asked which distribution channels they intended to shop, only one category registered more than a 1 percent jump from 2011 levels as off-price retailers garnered a 15 percent affirmative response, up from 13 percent. Discount stores remained the preferred destination with a 50 percent response, down 1 point from a year ago, and online shopping was second, holding steady at 38 percent.

National chains, such as Sears, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s, fell to 28 percent of the sample from 29 percent and department stores dropped to 23 percent from 24 percent. Likewise, toy stores and warehouse clubs both fell a single point, to 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively, while outlet stores and electronics stores held steady, both at 17 percent.

Apparel specialty stores ticked up to 16 percent this year from 15 percent in 2011.

Retailers will have a wider window through which to attract shoppers as there will be one more shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas than there was a year ago. That could help compensate for an electorate that is expected to be focused on the selection of a president between now and Nov. 6.

“Consumers and the media will be thinking about the election more than shopping, but when the election is over, consumers will get into the holiday spirit,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD. A slightly smaller percentage of shoppers — 16 percent versus 17 percent a year ago — had already started their holiday shopping before responses to the survey were collected during the week ended Sept. 11. The percentage of shoppers planning to start the process before Thanksgiving moved up to 21 percent from 19 percent last year.

The survey included online responses from 3,618 individuals.

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