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NRF: Holiday Gift Budgets Trimmed

Consumers plan to spend just over $700 on holiday gifts and seasonal merchandise.

Shoppers plan to cut back on their holiday spending this year, but their end-of-year budgets for themselves and their families are headed in the opposite direction.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, released today, consumers plan to spend an average of $704.18 on holiday gifts and seasonal merchandise, down 2.1 percent from $718.98 last year.

However, those same shoppers expect to spend about $130.43 on non-gift merchandise available on sale or at discounts for themselves and their families, 16.2 percent more than last year’s level of $112.20. Just under three in five surveyed — 59.9 percent of respondents — said they plan to make these non-gift purchases, up from 57.1 percent in 2010 and 52.9 percent in 2009.

Asked to identify the single biggest influence on where they shop, 41.6 percent indicated “sale or price discounts,” down from 41.8 percent in 2010. The second and third most popular choices were “selection of merchandise” and “quality of merchandise,” which pulled in 18 percent and 14.6 percent of respondents, respectively.

The results didn’t alter NRF’s earlier forecast, issued on Oct. 6, for retail sales growth of 2.8 percent, to $465.6 billion, during the months of November and December.

“In 2009, it was all about personal, practical gifts, and last year consumers wanted to treat their loved ones to something special,” said Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director at BIGresearch, which conducted the survey. “This year, it’s a little bit of both. Limited budgets and a desire to make the most out of gift-giving will drive consumers to shop at a variety of retailers while also thinking outside the box for great gift ideas.”

BIGresearch polled nearly 8,600 consumers between Oct. 4 and 11.

Apparel and accessories remained the most desired gift, with exactly half indicating it was on their personal wish list, up from 48.2 percent a year ago. Books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games were second (44.4 percent from 47.3 percent), followed by consumer electronics or computer-related accessories (35.4 percent from 33.8 percent). Jewelry or precious metal accessories were the sixth most popular category, included on 22.8 percent of lists versus 23 percent in 2010.

Discounters remained the most popular destination for holiday shoppers, checked off by 66.1 percent of respondents versus 65.1 percent last year, but department stores closed the gap in channel popularity, garnering a 56.9 percent positive response against 54.5 percent last year. Clothing or accessories stores rose to 35.2 percent, up from 33.6 percent. Online purchases are planned by 46.7 percent of shoppers, up from 43.9 percent in 2010, and catalogue buys by 14.2 percent, down from 15.1 percent. On average, respondents plan to do 36 percent of their holiday shopping online, up from 32.7 percent.