Survey: Consumers will spend more than $700 on the holidays this year

The average consumer plans to spend $702.03 on the holidays, up 4.5% over last year, according to the findings of a National Retail Federation survey. Total holiday spending this year is estimated to reach $219.9 billion.

A total of 22.6% of those surveyed said they wanted jewelry for the holidays, according to NRF 2004 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey conducted by BIGresearch for NRF. Its findings were released Wednesday.

Books, CDs, DVDs, videos, and video games held the highest ranking, with 53.1% of consumers hoping to receive something in that category. Clothing and clothing accessories also continue to rank high with shoppers at 50.6%. More than half of consumers (50.2%) want to receive a gift card. Other items on consumers’ wish lists include consumer electronics (32.6%) and home décor (21.3%).

Average consumers will spend the bulk of their holiday budget on gifts for family ($406.52) and friends ($71.29), according to the survey. Consumers will also spend $22.12 on co-workers and $41.10 on other people, including babysitters, teachers, and clergy. Other items consumers will purchase include decorations ($35.91), greeting cards and postage ($25.22), candy and food ($83.77), and flowers ($16.10).

More than half of consumers (51.2%) plan to take advantage of sales this holiday season to make non-gift purchases for themselves or their families, spending an additional $89.25 on those purchases. Overwhelmingly, men and young adults plan to spend the most on themselves ($116.87 and $114.69, respectively).

The majority of consumers say that sales or price discounts (41.8%) or everyday low prices (15.6%) are the most important factors when choosing to shop at a particular store. Other consumers shop at stores based on their selection of merchandise (20.0%), quality (8.7%), or location (7.8%). Though only 4.4 percent of consumers said that “helpful, knowledgeable customer service” was the most important factor when choosing where to shop, it is increasing in importance. Just two years ago, only 3.1 percent of consumers said that customer service was the most important factor in shopping.

According to the survey, 18% of consumers started their holiday shopping before September with an additional 6.9% starting in September and 17.7% beginning in October. More than a third of consumers (34.3%) will begin their holiday shopping in November with one in four (23.1%) waiting until December.

The survey also found that consumers this year plan to shop at a variety of stores for their holiday shopping including discounters (77.1%) and department stores (53.1%). More than a third of consumers plan to shop at grocery stores (46.7%), specialty stores (39.3%), and online (38.3%).