holiday shopping increases

Consumers say they’ll spend an average of $1,007.24 during this year’s holiday season, up 4.1 percent from the $967.13 they said they would spend last year, according to a survey released yesterday by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

“Consumers are ready to shop,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Confidence is near an all-time high, unemployment is the lowest we’ve seen in decades and take-home wages are up. All of that is reflected in consumers’ buying plans.”

Consumer confidence is even higher in Colorado Springs than in the nation as a whole, said Joey Torretto, lead analyst and quantitative division head at Elevated Insights, a Colorado Springs market research firm.

Torretto said the firm recently rolled five questions about consumer confidence in the local economy into a syndicated survey and compared the results with the University of Michigan’s national Consumer Sentiment Index, a leading economic predictor for the U.S. economy.

“On those indexes, we were higher by 28 percent than the national average for consumer expectations for the next 12 months and 9 percent higher on consumer sentiment overall,” Torretto said.

The NRF conducts the survey annually and it supports NRF’s annual holiday spending forecast, which takes into account a variety of economic factors to project overall spending rather than just consumer spending.

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The forecast estimated that holiday retail sales in November and December would increase between 4.3 percent and 4.8 percent over 2017 and would total between $717.45 billion and $720.89 billion.

Consumers are expected to spend in three main categories during the holidays: gifts, at $637.67; non-gift holiday items such as food, decorations, flowers and greeting cards, at $215.04; and other non-gift purchases that take advantage of the deals and promotions throughout the season, at $154.53.

“That’s great news,” said Leslie Lewis, executive director of the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Manitou merchants, whose sales suffered during the summer because of multiple road construction projects, are looking forward to a successful holiday shopping season.

“I think they’re very hopeful for a good shopping season,” Lewis said. “Most of the construction will be done. A shuttle will run from Hiawatha Gardens, and people can park there and get off downtown. Manitou has some great new shops and ideas for holiday giving.”

The chamber will be running special promotions and sponsoring events such as Small Business Saturday, Nov. 24, to lure shoppers to Manitou, Lewis said.

The NRF survey showed that holiday shoppers are planning to spread their shopping dollars across multiple channels and stores. An equal number (55 percent) will shop online and in department stores while 51 percent will go to discount stores, 44 percent to grocery stores, 33 percent to clothing stores and 24 percent to electronics stores. Half of those shopping online say they will pick up their purchases in-store.

About 60 percent of holiday shoppers are waiting until at least November to begin browsing and buying items for the season. However, 21 percent planned to start in October and 18 percent said they began in September or earlier. Of the early shoppers, 61 percent said they were trying to spread out their budgets while 47 percent wanted to avoid the crowds and stress of last-minute shopping.

While sales and discounts remained the largest factor in choosing a particular retailer, cited by 71 percent, quality and selection of merchandise were the next-largest factor (cited by 60 percent), followed by free shipping (47 percent) and convenient location (45 percent).

“Consumers will be scouring through retailers’ ads to make sure they are getting the best deal possible,” Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said. “Although sales will remain an important factor, shoppers want good quality and want to be able to find what they’re looking for.”

For the 12th straight year, gift cards remain the most popular items on wish lists, requested by 60 percent of those surveyed, followed by clothing and accessories at 53 percent, books/movies/music (37 percent), electronics (29 percent), home décor (23 percent), jewelry (22 percent), personal care or beauty items (19 percent), sporting goods (18 percent) and home improvement items (17 percent).

The survey of 7,313 adults was conducted Oct. 1-11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.