One-quarter of shoppers have jewelry on their holiday wish lists this year, the highest percentage since 2006, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF).
The group called this one of many signs that consumers are a little less price-conscious this holiday.
“Throughout the recession, price has been paramount, no question about that,” said NRF senior director Kathy Grannis in a media conference call. “But consumers are getting a little weary, a little tired of that.… We are looking at a shopper who is looking at price, but who also wants value.”
That means that shoppers might plunk down more money if they perceive better quality.
“We will see consumers who are extremely price-conscious and looking for that practical gift,” said Pam Goodfellow, analyst for pollster Prosper Insights & Analytics, on the call. “But there is a bit more wiggle room in budgets this year.”
Goodfellow stressed that the U.S. is still stuck in “the new normal,” with consumers far more jittery than they were before the financial crisis.
“We are definitely not going back to spending habits we saw in 2006 and 2007,” she said. “I don’t think we will see shoppers go overboard, certainly not at the expense of their savings accounts.”
And while the NRF found more confident consumers, a good percentage still feel skittish, especially with the recent downbeat news about everything from Ebola to ISIS.
“If you talk to the average consumers, money is definitely not burning a hole in their pockets,” Goodfellow said. “If you had $100 to spend on your mom this year, and you can get away with $80, you might be okay with that.”
Despite all the caution, the group still stands by its forecast of a 4.1 percent jump in holiday sales this year—although not every income group may turn out in force.
“This is a bifurcated recovery,” Grannis said. “Among the lower- and higher-income [consumers], there is a really big difference in spending patterns.”
Some 56 percent of holiday shoppers will look for gifts online this year, the highest number the NRF has found in its history of polling.
“They don’t necessarily intend to purchase, but they will look online,” said Grannis. “It’s inevitable that we will continue to see more people shop online, particularly with the adoption of mobile.”