Survey: Christmas Gift Spending to Rise 9%

Gift givers, also known as “gifters,” are expected to spend $949 on Christmas gifts this year, up 9.1 percent from the average of $870 spent last year, according to a recent survey.

“Throughout the 2006 year, consumers have been generous with their gift spending,” said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, Stevens, Pa. “We don’t expect that to change during the fourth quarter, especially now that gasoline prices have dropped and the stock market is going through the roof.” 

Early indications are that people will turn to specialty stores for their gift shopping this year, rather than to the discount department stores, Danziger said.

She added that fewer shoppers will go to discounters this holiday season.

Nearly 70 percent of gifters say they plan on shopping at discounters this year, down from 78 percent who planned to shop discount in 2005, according to Unity Marketing’s latest Gift Tracker Survey, which is completed quarterly.

The survey, which tracks 700 gift givers (average age 43 years and household income $61,700), also indicates that 2006 may mark the turning point in Wal-Mart’s stranglehold on retailing in America as consumers are deciding they want more from their shopping experience besides cheap prices, Danziger said.

About one-third of shoppers have already started their holiday gift shopping and have spent on average just under $300 so far. This is 16 percent more than they had spent through the same period last year. This, she said, is contributing to strong Christmas season.

About 58 percent of gift givers say they will spend about the same this Christmas, while 18 percent expect to spend more. Among those 18 percent who are budgeting more, the average amount they expect to increase their spending is 12.5 percent. 

Popular gift Choices this year include:

* Gift certificates, particularly in book and record stores, traditional department stores, and clothing and fashion stores.

* Gifts of experiences, such as a dining, entertainment or beauty/spa treatments. About 26 percent say they will present a gift of experience, up from only 19 percent last year.

Giftables and other “little luxuries,” including flowers and candles, consumables, and personal care items.