Holiday shoppers are crossing themselves off of the gift list, trade group says

Shoppers walk past the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York.

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As holiday shoppers look for gifts, they plan to spend less overall and pull back on purchases for themselves, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

The retail industry trade group said Wednesday that consumers expect to spend $997.79 on gifts, holiday items like food and decorations and additional “non-gift” purchases, according to a survey of 7,660 consumers conducted in early October. That’s a drop of about $50 from last year’s survey.

Nearly all of that drop came from people who say they are hesitant to buy items for themselves or their families that aren’t gifts while they are holiday shopping, even if there’s a big sale, the survey found. They plan to spend a little less on gifts than last year, a drop of about $8, according to the survey.

Despite the decline, expected holiday spending is higher than the five-year average for gifts and decor, NRF said.

The coronavirus pandemic has shaken up the way shoppers plan to celebrate the holidays, too, according to the survey. One in five people surveyed said they typically travel for the holidays, but will celebrate at home instead this year.

The drop in travel spending could add up to more sales for retailers. A little over half of the shoppers surveyed said they’ll put some of the money they’d otherwise spend on travel expenses like plane tickets and gas toward holiday items instead.

And shoppers want to get into the spirit of the season. Shoppers plan to spend slightly more on holiday decor this year — a bright spot for retailers and a reflection of Americans’ focus on sprucing up their homes as they spend more time there.

NRF typically shares a holiday forecast in early October, but has yet to weigh in. Consulting firms have started to paint a picture of how the season may shape up. In a survey by Accenture, consumers said they plan to spend $540 on holiday shopping this year. That’s about $100 less than they planned to spend last year. Deloitte predicted holiday retail sales will rise slightly, by 1 to 1.5%.

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