Will Santa's Bag be a Little Lighter This Year?

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Maritz Poll® reveals what Americans plan to spend on gifts this holiday season.

While retailers were pleasantly surprised after an increase in retail sales in October, their worries about bleak holiday forecasts may not be soothed by a recent Maritz Poll®. According to the survey, which has been conducted every year since 1988, nearly one out of four holiday shoppers (24 percent) say that they will be spending less on holiday gifts this year. On average, 2,007 respondents plan to spend $791 on gifts, which is statistically about the same as last year’s $823, and certainly not the increase retailers are hoping for.

Paying at the Pump

When asked if increased gas prices were a factor, 70 percent of those consumers who are cutting back on holiday gifts said yes. Additionally, those who say they will spend less because of gas prices will spend an average of $373 less this year.

“We typically see predictions of increased sales each holiday season,” said Gloria Park Bartolone, vice president of the Retail Research Group at Maritz Research. “This is a different kind of year with the country experiencing two economically damaging natural disasters and consumers contending with higher gas prices. It appears Americans are being more mindful of the dollars in their wallet, and additional spending on holiday gifts is one area where they are willing to cut back.”

Of note: the average price for a gallon of regular grade gasoline in the U.S. during the time of this study was $2.60. The average price of gasoline during the week of Nov. 7 was $2.38, which is a 38-cent increase from this time last year.

The Gift of Giving

Higher gas prices may not be the only factor influencing holiday buying behaviors this year. When asked if charitable donations made to hurricane victims are affecting their holiday spending, nearly one-fifth of those spending less said yes.

“The average reduction for those who said they’ll be spending less because of donations to hurricane victims is $217,” said Bartolone. “It’s refreshing to see such an example of American generosity and self-sacrifice. We also need to also keep in mind that this money will be pumped back into the economy by the hurricane victims.”

Other reasons some holiday shoppers are spending less this year include:

  • Less money to spend than last year
  • Economic conditions have declined
  • Saving money for another purpose, and
  • Unexpected bills this year.

Happy Halloween or Holidays?

Even though retailers came out with holiday items and promotions earlier than ever this year, 80 percent of consumers say they will start their holiday shopping at about the same time this year as they did last. Only 12 percent say they will start shopping earlier this year. Forty percent of respondents indicated that they’ll begin holiday shopping in November, which is the same percentage of November shoppers from the 2004 consumer market research survey.

“Last year, retailers may have felt that they missed the mark by not going out early enough or deep enough with promotions and discounts. This year, they are rightly worried that fuel costs will negatively impact holiday shopping,” said Bartolone. “In response, retailers overcompensated by overriding Halloween with the beginning of their holiday promotions, but our research suggests that holiday shoppers were unaffected and will continue to shop around the same time they started last year.”

Holiday shoppers in the Northeast region (43 percent) are significantly more likely than those in the Midwest (12%) to say that they want to start shopping earlier to avoid the crowds. Shoppers from the South (28 percent) and West (29 percent) are not as concerned with avoiding the crowds.

Guys, Wake Up!

True to the stereotype of waiting until the last minute to do their holiday shopping, men (25 percent) are significantly more likely than women (17 percent) to start shopping in December.

This Maritz Poll, which was conducted Oct. 18 – 31, 2005, featured responses from 2,007 randomly selected adults from a national telephone survey on topics related to holiday shopping buying behaviors and gift-giving trends. Respondents for this poll were split evenly between males and females. Sampling error for the overall poll is +/-2 percent.

About Maritz® Poll

Maritz® Poll is a copyrighted poll conducted since 1988 by Maritz Research Inc. Maritz Poll comprises regular surveys on topics related to the automotive, financial services, hospitality, retail, technology, and telecommunications sectors as well as workplace issues. Results of the poll may be used in print or broadcast media, provided credit is given to the Maritz Poll and/or Maritz Research. For more information, visit maritzpoll.com or call 1-877-4MARITZ.

About Maritz Research

As one of the world’s largest marketing research firms, Maritz Research, a unit of Maritz Inc., helps many of today’s most successful companies improve performance through a deep understanding of their customers, employees and channel partners. Founded in 1973, it offers a range of strategic and tactical solutions concentrating primarily in the automotive, financial services, hospitality, telecommunications, retail, workplace and technology industries. The company has achieved ISO 9001 registration, the international symbol of quality. It is a member of CASRO and official sponsor of the American Marketing Association. Based in St. Louis, Maritz Inc. provides market and customer research, communications, learning solutions, incentive initiatives, meetings and event management, rewards and recognition, travel management services, and customer loyalty programs. Maritz has a presence in 42 countries, with key offices in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Spain. For more information, visit Maritz.com.

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Amber Morris
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