It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . for retailers. A new survey by the National Retail Federation predicts a 7.2 increase in the amount of money consumers plan to spend for the holidays.
The survey, which was released early today, showed that consumers will spend $791.10 on average for everything from gifts to decorations to candy.
That’s up from last year’s $738.11.
Scott Krugman, a spokesman with NRF, said that the falling price of gasoline is the primary reason for the increase.
A survey by American Automobile Association showed the nation’s average price of regular unleaded gas fell nearly four cents a gallon last week to $2.25 a gallon from the prior week.
“It (the predicted increase in holiday spending) wasn’t a surprise,” Krugman said. “The holiday season — it’s very important to consumers.”
Consumers polled by the federation said they plan to spend less in one area — gifts for co-workers. That section of the survey showed that shoppers expect to spend $21.05, a 7.04 percent drop from last year’s average amount of $22.40.
“I guess there’s more of a focus on home and family,” Krugman said. “It’s hard to say as to why that’s happening.”
Mesa resident Louise Zais, who was shopping for Christmas gifts Monday at Fiesta Mall in Mesa, said falling gas prices have definitely saved her a lot of worry this holiday season.
“I have an economical car, but . . . I don’t want to spend three dollars for gasoline,” she said.
Despite her growing confidence, Zais said she’ll be searching the malls for the big sales this holiday.
“I don’t look, they find me,” she joked.
Brock and Sharisa Hutchins, a husband and wife who live in Gilbert, said they’ll probably spend $400 to $500 this year for gifts on friends and family, whereas last year they spent about $300.
“We both have better jobs this year,” Sharisa said. “Spending more money is a little bit easier.”
Melissa Buxton, senior marketing manager at Fiesta Mall, said mall officials expect to lure more customers this season with some seasonal stores, a snow machine and a friends and family discount sale during the first weekend of December.
Krugman said that any number of factors from weather to geopolitical problems could affect the ultimate results this holiday season.
“Consumer spending is so tied to consumer psychology,” he said. “You can’t focus on one single indicator. You’ve got to look at everything.”
The survey also showed a slight uptick in the amount of shopping that consumers plan to do at department stores this year. That sector has lost customers to other retailers in recent years. Krugman said there are a variety of factors to explain the better performance by department stores including consolidation within the industry and a greater amount of merchandise appealing to younger shoppers.
“Department stores are very much alive and well,” he said.
Nevertheless, discount stores will be the most popular destination for holiday shoppers this year, according to the survey. Seventy percent of those polled said they will shop at Wal-Mart, Target and their competitors, a percentage down slightly from last year.