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Economy to Impact Two-Thirds of Families this Holiday Season, According to NRF Survey

Watch a three-minute video of shopper interviews on 2009 holiday plans.
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For Immediate Release
Contact: Kathy Grannis (202) 783-7971 or grannisk@nrf.com
www.nrf.com/holidays

Economy to Impact Two-Thirds of Families this Holiday
Season, According to NRF Survey
-NRF Advises Shopping Early to Compensate for Lower Inventory-

Washington, October 20, 2009 – Retailers are about to embark on the holiday season of the serious bargain hunter. According to NRF’s 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $682.74 on holiday-related shopping, a 3.3 percent drop from last year’s $705.01.*

It comes as no surprise that the economy was an overriding theme throughout this year’s survey. Two-thirds of Americans (65.3%) say the economy will affect their holiday plans this year, with the majority of these consumers saying they’re adjusting by simply spending less (84.2%).** People will also be shopping for sales more often (55.0%), using more coupons (41.7%) and putting up last year’s decorations (34.0%). Many Americans will also make changes in gift-giving, planning to buy more practical gifts (36.0%), buying a joint gift for kids or parents (17.3%), and making more gifts (16.7%). Additionally, more than one-fourth of Americans (28.6%) say the economy is forcing them to travel less or not at all for the holidays.

“While last holiday season was filled with chaotic confusion, adjusting to uncertainty has now become routine for many Americans,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “This holiday season will be a bit of a dance between retailers and shoppers, with each group feeling the other out to understand how things have changed and how they must adapt.”

Americans’ eagle-eye on bargain hunting is adjusting the priorities of many shoppers. According to the survey, more than half of holiday shoppers say that sales and price discounts (43.3%) or everyday low prices (12.7%) will be the most important factor when deciding where to shop. Factors like selection (21.0%), quality (11.8%), convenience (4.9%) and customer service (4.4%) declined from last year.

Not surprisingly, the majority of holiday shoppers (70.1%) will purchase from discounters this year, though more than half (55.8%) will also shop at department stores. Grocery stores (45.0%), the Internet (42.4%), clothing stores (33.8%) and electronics stores (31.8%) will also be popular destinations. In addition, one in ten holiday shoppers (11.4%) will buy gifts or other holiday-related merchandise at thrift stores or resale shops.***

Retailers are compensating for soft sales this holiday season by cutting back on inventory. According to NRF’s Port Tracker report, released in September, traffic to the nation’s ports has scaled back to levels not seen since 2003.

“In anticipation of weak demand, many retailers scaled back on inventory levels to prevent unplanned markdowns at the end of the season,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “Once the most popular items are gone, retailers won’t have anywhere to get them, so if there was ever a holiday season to buy early, this is it.”

Whether they’re shopping to get the best selection or trying to stretch out spending over a longer period of time, many holiday shoppers are starting early. According to the survey, 39 percent of Americans will begin their holiday shopping before Halloween, which is comparable to previous years.

As in previous years, three-fourths of Americans’ holiday budget will be spent on gifts. While spending on family members will decline by a slight two percent ($387.06 in ’09 vs. $395.15 in ’08), gifts for friends ($66.77 vs. $80.13) and co-workers ($19.26 vs. $22.63) will see double-digit drops. Americans also plan to spend about five percent less ($34.81 vs. $36.88) on “other” gifts for people like babysitters, teachers and clergy.

Candy and food spending may be one bright spot this year, with the average person planning to spend $10 more in that category than last year ($90.26 in 2009 vs. $80.28 in 2008). Spending on other non-gift categories like decorations ($40.75 in ’09 vs. $43.45 in ’08), greeting cards and postage ($26.77 vs. $27.39), and flowers ($17.05 vs. $19.10) is expected to drop.

“While the economic climate has shown some improvement from last holiday season, retailers are not out of the woods yet,” said Phil Rist, Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. “With a variety of factors still up in the air, including uncertainty over job security, many Americans just aren’t buying into the talk of recovery.”

Though Americans were less inclined to purchase gift cards last season, the popular gifts retain their spot at the top of the list among gift recipients. According to the survey, 55.2 percent of adults would like to receive a gift card this holiday season, with clothing (48.8%), books and DVDs (48.6%) and electronics (33.2%) among other popular choices.

NRF continues to expect holiday sales to decline 1.0 percent to $437.6 billion.

PRESS AND ANALYSTS: For more insights from the survey, join NRF for a media briefing today at 1 pm ET with Phil Rist, BIGresearch Executive Vice President, and NRF’s Ellen Davis. Register now.

The NRF 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey polled 8,431 consumers and was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch September 30 – October 7, 2009. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent.

BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes. BIGresearch’s syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey monitors the pulse of more than 8,000 consumers each month to empower its clients with unique insights for identifying opportunities in a fragmented and changing marketplace.

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2008 sales of $4.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com.

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* Using consumers’ intentions from early October coupled with actual spending data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, NRF has derived final estimates on per-person spending for the 2008 holiday season along with the years 2004-2007. Going forward, NRF will make it a practice of using the final estimates of per-person holiday spending each fall for the previous year, much like it does total holiday sales. Please contact NRF with any questions you have about the updated numbers or rationale behind the revisions.

** This is the first year the question about how the economy would impact spending was asked. As a result, comparable numbers are not available.

*** This is the first year NRF added a “thrift store” category, so no comparisons exist.