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Americans' Projected Holiday Spending Up Slightly From 2013

Americans' Projected Holiday Spending Up Slightly From 2013

Story Highlights

  • Americans expect to spend an average of $720 on gifts
  • Estimate suggests 3% increase in sales this holiday season
  • Nine percent of Americans won't Christmas shop

PRINCETON, N.J. -- Gallup's latest measure of Americans' Christmas spending plans finds U.S. adults projecting they will spend an average of $720 on gifts this year, up slightly from their $704 estimate in November 2013, pointing to an OK holiday season for retailers.

Americans' Christmas Spending Estimate in November of Each Year

Overall, a quarter of Americans plan to spend $1,000 or more on gifts, and another 21% will spend at least $500. At the other end of the spectrum, 24% expect to spend less than $250, and 15% will spend between $250 and $499. Nine percent of Americans tell Gallup this year that they won't spend anything or don't celebrate Christmas.

Americans' Christmas Spending Estimate, November 2014

Shoppers May Be Getting Cold Feet

Though up from 2013, the current spending estimate is well below the November reading in several earlier years, particularly in 2006 and 2007, when the figure exceeded $800. It is also below what Gallup found in October, when Americans predicted they would spend $781 this holiday season.

The $61 decline in Americans' forecasted spending over the past month is similar to the $82 decline that occurred last year, and might be seen as something of a "cold feet" syndrome. Although Americans' spending estimate increased between October and November in 2011 and held steady in 2010, Gallup saw similar declines in 2006 and 2007. The steeper declines in 2008 and 2009 may have related more directly to mounting economic problems in the country at those times.

Americans' Average Christmas Spending Estimates for October and November of Each Year

Spending on Track to Increase by Roughly 3%

According to Gallup's modeling of how prior years' spending forecasts compare with the final November-December retail sales figures for each year, Americans' latest Christmas spending estimate points to an increase of between 2.2% and 3.5% in U.S. holiday retail sales, with the most likely outcome around 3%. Even at the low end, this would be an improvement over 2013, but this isn't saying much, because last year's sales were up only 1.5%, according to the Census Bureau's GAFO (General merchandise, Apparel and accessories, Furniture and Other sales) retail sales estimates.

Gallup Christmas Spending Estimate vs. U.S. Holiday Sales -- Annual Percentage Changes

Since posting a solid 3.7% gain in 2010 after the highly anemic recession-era sales of 2008 and 2009, holiday retail sales have grown by smaller amounts each year. Thus, given last year's disappointing sales gains, an increase of 2% or larger may be a welcome sign for retailers, who may be wondering if the ho-ho-ho has gone out of Christmas shopping altogether.

Bottom Line

Barring a major economic crisis or winter weather event that curbs Americans' willingness to shop, consumers seem on track to outlay a bit more on Christmas gifts this year than they did in 2013. But even if consumers' spending reaches the high end of the range indicated by their current spending forecast, U.S. retail sales growth for November and December would still barely hit the 14-year average of 3.1%, suggesting Christmas sales still aren't what they used to be.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Nov. 19-20, 2014, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 1,019 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.

Learn more about how the Gallup U.S. Daily works.

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