Shoppers are planning to spend nearly $800 for the holidays

The average consumer plans to spend $791.10 this holiday season, up from $738.11 last year, according to a recent National Retail Federation survey. In addition, shoppers will take advantage of sales and discounts during the holiday season to spend an additional $99.22 on themselves.

“With gas prices coming down and consumer sentiment on the rise, shoppers want to celebrate the holidays in style,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “Retailers will be sure to give consumers a reason to spend their extra disposable income in the stores with enticing incentives and special promotions.”

NRF forecasts that holiday sales will increase 5 percent this year to $457.4 billion.

Consumers this year will shop at a variety of destinations for holiday gifts, according to NRF’s 2006 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch,. Discount stores continue to be the most popular holiday shopping location (70.3%). However, many people will also be shopping at specialty stores (48.4%), grocery stores (49.3%), drug stores (21%), and crafts or fabrics stores (20.5%). Nearly half (47.1%) of consumers said they plan to shop online this year, up from 36 percent three years ago.

More than 60 percent of shoppers plan to go to department stores for holiday items, up from 53.1 percent in 2003. Department stores are likely to see much of their traffic from young adults, with 79 percent of 18-24 year-olds planning to shop there, up from 72.9 percent last year and 65.9 percent in 2004.

The average person will spend $451.34 on gifts for the family; $85.60 for friends; $22.40 for coworkers; and $44.52 on other people like clergy, teachers, and babysitters.

According to the survey, 40.4 percent of consumers will begin their holiday shopping this year before Halloween.

Most shoppers’ wish lists will include traditional favorites, from clothing and accessories (53.3%) to books, CDs, DVDs, videos and video games (55.2%). Gift cards will also be popular, as 52.8 percent of consumers said they would like to receive a gift card this year.

Majority of shoppers say that everyday low prices (14.2%) and sales or price discounts (36.5%) bring them into stores. However, more shoppers this year said other factors like customer service (4.4%), product quality (12.4%), and merchandise selection (24.3%) are the most important when determining where to shop. A total of 6.5 percent of shoppers said they choose stores with the most convenient location.