Estimates today are anywhere between $400 to a high of $900 being spent — on average — by every shopper this holiday season — or roughly up by 4 percent from last year.
At least, that’s what the sales reports for Black Friday and the four days following seem to indicate. These sales records reached a record $52.5B according to the National Retail Federation, while sales reached $1.25B on Cyber Monday alone. In fact, just this past Monday — dubbed Green Monday — it was reported that 17 Billion — with a B — packages were mailed out by FedEx. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, spending was up $50 per shopper this past November compared to last year at the same time. This has lead some economic experts to believe that the economy is turning around.
Or is it?
According to a poll by Bankrate.com, 42 percent of Americans are planning on spending less this holiday season. The poll also reports that half of these are parents. Another report also mentioned that some shoppers are already returning some purchases, probably made over the Black Friday weekend. Not wanting to miss out on the special sales at the time, consumers have now taken some time to rethink their purchases and changing their minds.
Well, that seems to make sense, with the economy, at best, questionable.
Still other reports say that Americans will be spending about the same.
So, what’s really happening???
Actually, it doesn’t seem as if anyone really knows.
Reports on all three fronts are prevalent.
The main prevailing theory is that a lot depends on how much income you make, which makes sense. However, it is a greater determining factor in this economy than it has been in previous years, along with sales and bargains. Plus, thanks to extended early shopping hours in addition to great bargains, more of the money normally spent for the holidays may have already been spent during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday blitzes. That may mean that most shoppers are finished with their holiday spending. Less money than expected may be spent between now and the rest of the holiday season, eventually lowering total revenues.
Some say Americans are spending more this year, with the main reason being they are tired of being so frugal and penny-pinching. Others say, as the economy doesn’t improve and, in some cases, continues to dip, consumers are not taking any chances and are holding onto whatever money they have because they just don’t know what the future holds. And others still are maintaining a status quo, but with some changes to how they spend the same dollars from previous years.
Keep in mind, however, that it depends on what years you compare previous spending. In 2006, spending was higher than now and on the rise every year. The lowest spending in recent history hit in 2008 when the economy was first hit hard. Since, spending has gone up slightly every year, with 2010 possibly at present estimates being slightly higher or very much the same as this year. It all depends on which stats you find.
Right now, it’s really mainly speculation — a guessing game of sorts.
Also, while there is no “top hot gift” this year in most areas, some reports still say it’s a shoppers market, especially when it comes to electronics, because prices have dipped in this area.
But, the advice by other experts is: if you find something at a price you’re willing to spend, buy it now, because you can’t count on after-holiday surplus sales. Sellers are not making the same mistakes as previous years and are only ordering a limited number of items so they don’t have a surplus after the holidays are over.
But clothing, due to the higher cost of cotton, won’t come at a bargain price this year, according to other Internet research.
But Cleveland isn’t typical of the rest of the U.S.? Or is it?
After an informal — and mostly anonymous — survey of area residents on the topic, some interesting comments were made.
But what and how are shoppers changing their behavior and attitudes in response? What’s different, if anything?
Some Clevelanders say they are spending more, but differently. Some say less. And others, about the same.
One 20-something shopper said she is spending roughly the same amount of money, but she is investing in nicer presents, thanks in large part to the special sales on Black Friday that enticed a record number of holiday shoppers.
The Brogden family — mom Joanna, dad Toby, big brother Asher, and little sis Adalyn — were out on a Christmas shopping trip at the Bradley Square Mall recently. Mom and dad said they are planning on spending the same amount of money on Christmas gifts and activities as they did last year.
“But we’ll spend on the kids, not on adults,” dad said. So, while the Brogdens plan on spending the same amount of money, they plan on spending it differently this year. “When you have little ones, you spend all your money on them.”
Surprisingly, more money is being spent this year on Christmas trees and decorations since the recession began, according to the huffingtonpost.com.
But a 40-something mom of two youngsters said she was spending more money this year.
“I’m just wrapped up in the spirit,” she said. “But I am not going into debt for it. No. No. No.”
A lot of her purchases are gift cards. She feels they are impersonal, but “that’s what they want.”
But she is also getting little gifts to go with the gift cards.
“But I am being more practical,” she added. She is buying items people can use, not just frivolous things that people lose interest in after a few days. And the same goes for her family. She and her husband are spending their Christmas money for each other and investing in a storage building.
“It adds value to the house and we can definitely use it,” she said.
Another shopper said she vowed to spend less this year.
“I told myself it made no sense to spend $800 to $1,000,” this lady said. She still plans on getting nice gifts, but just not as many. “I got one nice gift for each person instead of a bunch of little gifts.”
A male shopper said he is forced to spend less this year.
“My budget has changed I don’t know how many times this year. I’m downsizing all the way around because of life changes,” he said, woefully. His kids are getting older, so at least there isn’t the pressure of getting toys for little ones any longer.
And as far as the rest of the U.S. economy is concerned, this same shopper said that instead of judging by the stock market, people should really judge the economy — and how they are going to spend their money — by looking at the stores, the restaurants and the recreation areas, like movies and bowling and such.
“That’s where the real gauge of business is,” he said. Same with the job market. Some areas are still hopping, while others are tanking. “It’s confusing. Sales and jobs are both up and down. It just depends on what you’re doing and where you’re at.”
A 30-something mom said she is spending less — per person — but still giving out the same number of gifts.
A second male shopper had a slightly different attitude toward the whole Christmas shopping issue. He’s spending a little more this year than last year — especially on gift cards.
“And, he’s encouraging others to spend more on him and his wife,” he said, jokingly.
But becoming more serious, he said he and his wife are spending just as much on others this year as last. The one big difference this year from last year is that they are actually spending more on themselves this year by buying a much desired big item.
“It’s put us a little in the red,” he admitted. They have waiting for a really good deal before making the commitment — and they finally found one. “We’ve been wanting this entertainment unit for years and my wife really wanted one ... And I really wanted her to have one ... She’s never really asked for much. If she really wants something, I try to get it for her,” the devoted husband said.
But added into the decision to buy this year was the notion that the economy may not get better any time soon, so waiting seemed pointless.
“Part of the reason (for not waiting) is that people have gotten so tired of the media doom and gloom,” he said. People just seem tired of all this bad economic news, he explained. People are tired of agonizing. They are tired of tightening their belts. They just want to feel a little freedom to enjoy themselves. He thinks they are at the point where they are just going to do what they want in the best way they can.
To do this, some turn to thrift store shopping for the holidays as an alternative.
Most, when asked, say “No” to this suggestion. Others, however, say a rousing, “Absolutely.” And that’s for both giving and receiving.
“Times are tough,” was the consensus on these discount stores or flea markets. “I’ve done more since the economy went down, especially for clothes.”
According to the “Today Show,” 86 percent of consumers are more precise in what they buy, while 80 percent are more efficient in how they shop. Sixty-three percent of shoppers decide what they are going to buy before stepping foot into a store, while only 10 percent shop on the fly, not planning ahead and just making impromptu decisions after already in the store.
Despite the confusion and conflicting opinions, one fact seems to be undeniable: People sure seem to feel that things are different.