Cash is becoming the preferred payment method for holiday gifts

More consumers will be leaving their credit cards at home as they hit the stores for holiday shopping, according to the NRF 2005 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch.

Debit/check cards (34.3 percent) will remain the favored form of payment this holiday season, according to the survey. Meanwhile, fewer people will be relying on credit cards when purchasing holiday merchandise (28.2 percent vs. 29.5 percent in 2004). In fact, cash has replaced credit cards as the second most-popular payment method, as 28.5 percent of shoppers plan to primarily use cash during the winter holidays, up from 25.9 percent during the previous year. Just over 9 percent of shoppers will be writing checks at the register.

“Debt-conscious consumers will prefer to pay out-of-pocket for gifts this year and are making a conscious decision to reduce their reliance on credit cards,” said NRF president and CEO Tracy Mullin. “Just as retailers plan throughout the year for the holiday season, consumers are padding their budgets to prepare for additional spending during the holidays.”

According to the survey, books, CDs, DVDs, videos and video games remain gift favorites, with 62.1 percent of those polled planning to purchase at least one of those items as a gift. Consumers are also planning on purchasing clothing and clothing accessories (60.3 percent), gift cards (52.5 percent), and toys (45 percent) this holiday season. In addition, 30.1 percent will include food or candy in their holiday gift purchases.

The average person had completed about a fourth (24.9%) of their shopping up to the week beginning Nov. 7, with the majority of consumers having completed less than ten percent (68.1 percent). Some shoppers have planned ahead to beat the crowds, with one in 20 consumers almost completely finished (more than 75 percent complete) with their holiday shopping.

NRF projects that holiday sales will increase 5 percent this year to $435.3 billion.