Holiday spending seen on the upswing


The economy is not yet out of the woods, and consumers are still expected to take a value-conscious approach to holiday shopping – but according to research from Consumer Reports, they are far less uptight than they have been during the last two recession-bound holiday shopping seasons.

Still, about 33% plan to cut their spending this season. But that compares quite favorably to the 2008 holiday season, when 42% were cutting back. The figure on average that consumers will be adding to, matching or cutting back from is about $811, which is the average amount spent last holiday season. The $811 figure has its own backstory – it’s 16% higher than those same consumers said they were going to spend beforehand.

“Consumers are optimistic, but they don’t necessarily believe that happy days are here again.  Credit is tight, unemployment remains high, the value of their homes has dropped and many Americans are facing the prospect of higher taxes of all levels,” said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior editor and resident shopping expert. “So while it’s a bit surprising that some plan to spend somewhat more than last year, the fact is they’re insisting on value, value, value.” 

If it seems that the holiday season is in hibernation in your area, that is to be expected, according to the report. As of mid-October, only 28% of consumers had begun to do any shopping whatsoever. CR says there should be activity all the way through to 12/23/10.

RBR-TVBR observation: If you hunt around enough, it seems like you can find a report supporting just about any position you want on a given day. But we tend to trust this source – as an advocate for the people from whom it takes its name, Consumer Reports is never shy about reporting when its constituency is hurting. If CR says consumers are showing signs of optimism, that carries some weight.