Holiday Spending 2009

No one will be surprised at the findings of a recent Gallup poll of just over 1,000 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Oct. 1-4, 2009.  In summary results indicate that with the Christmas holiday season approaching, Gallup’s first spending survey reveals that Americans on average plan to spend $740 on gifts in 2009 which is down from $801 in 2008.  The good news is this number is almost $100 higher than consumers predicted late in the economically challenged holiday season of 2008. 

Gallup reports that from 2000 through 2007, American’s final Christmas gift spending approached or exceeded $800.  This makes last year’s late season estimate of 2009 Christmas holiday spending of $639 surprisingly low and a foreshadow of reports showing a decline in year-over-year retail sales for 2008.  Thirty-three percent of consumers today versus 35% a year ago say they will spend less, while over 50% plan to spend about the same amount and 9% will spend more. 

Outside of 2008, the 2009 comparative spending outlook is the worst since mid-December 1991 which was the first Christmas season after the 1990-1991 recession.  At that time, 33% of Americans reported they would spend less on gifts than the year before.  Today’s numbers are actually worse because overall 9% of consumers say they will spend more versus 16% back in 1991.

Although consumer intentions can change between October and December.  Gallup reports that based on economic conditions consumers can spend more or less than predicted.  Only time will reveal how this plays out in 2009, but trends indicate that it’s unlikely spending will drop significantly by December unless there’s another notable setback in the U.S. economy. 

Gallup’s early October Christmas shopping poll clearly indicates that Americans are tempering spending plans in comparison with earlier in the decade.  Given the economic disruption in the fall of last year that negatively impacted the 2008 shopping season, the November assessment and update of the current numbers will indicate whether the average spending estimate of $740 reported by households surveyed will hold.  If this number holds it could mean a slight increase in holiday sales which would be good news for retailers who have mostly seen continued declines in sales since the 2008 holiday season through 2009.

Here’s hoping for a fruitful Christmas holiday season for all.

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