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NRF: Holiday spending will be on par with last year

Average consumer spend this holiday will lag behind pre-pandemic 2019 amid fewer non-gift purchases.

Holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of $997.73 on gifts, items and other non-gift purchases this year, according to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. Despite the continued supply chain disruption, the amount is on par with consumer spending last year, the report noted.

Overall plans for holiday spending remain slightly below the pre-pandemic high of $1,047.83 in 2019 as fewer consumers plan to spend on non-gift purchases for themselves and their families, the NRF survey found. Instead, similar to last year, consumers are prioritizing gifts for family and friends and purchases related to holiday celebrations such as food or décor.

In contrast, in 2019, 60% planned to make these types of purchases and expected to spend $162.02. As many continue to work from home, shoppers are also less inclined to purchase gifts for co-workers.  

A recent report by Deloitte forecasts that holiday spending will average $1,463 per household, up 5% from 2020 —with higher-income shoppers driving nearly all gains.

Nearly half (47%) of holiday shoppers plan to take advantage of sales or price discounts during the holiday season to make non-gift purchases. They plan to spend an average of $118.41 on these items. 

The survey confirmed other reports that that consumers are getting an early jump on holiday shopping this year. Half (49%) of holiday shoppers will start browsing and buying before November, up from 42% in 2020 and the highest in the survey's history. Among those shopping in October or earlier, 47% said they want to avoid the stress of last-minute shopping and another 36% do not want to miss out on key holiday items.

“Over the last few years, consumers have demonstrated the desire to begin their holiday shopping earlier and earlier,” said Phil Rist, Prosper executive VP of strategy. “This year in particular, as retailers promote holiday inventory, they are taking advantage of additional offerings such as free shipping, buy online, pick up in-store and even expedited shipping to ensure they receive their gifts on time.”

Other highlights from the survey are below.

• Top holiday shopping destinations include department stores (47%), discount stores (44%), grocery stores (43%) and clothing/accessories stores (30%). One-quarter (24%) of consumers plan to shop specifically at a local or small business.  

[Read More: Holiday survey: 58% of shoppers plan to shop in stores; top six retailers are…]

• Nearly half (47%) of holiday shoppers are concerned they will have difficulty finding items this year. The top items they are worried about finding are electronics (44%), clothes (40%) and toys (28%). 

• Over half (57%) plan to purchase holiday items online this year, down from 60% who identified online as a holiday destination in 2020 and in line with pre-pandemic norms.  

• This year, 90% of U.S. adults plan to celebrate the upcoming holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, up from 87% last year.

The survey asked 7,921 consumers about winter holiday shopping plans. It was conducted October 1-10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.

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