Poll: Most Americans plan to spend less this Christmas

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 10, 2008 

WASHINGTON — A slight majority of Americans intend to spend less on gifts this Christmas than they did last year, but half plan to spend at least $500, according to a new Ipsos/McClatchy survey released Wednesday.

The nationwide survey, taken Dec. 4-8, pointed to the sagging economy as the reason why consumers said they'd spend less this Christmas.

While 55 percent said they'd spend less, 39 percent said they'd spend about the same as last year. Only 5 percent said they'd spend more.

The Ipsos/McClatchy poll results are consistent with retail sales numbers after Thanksgiving, which is generally a good barometer for what consumers will do over the entire holiday period. ShopperTrak RCT Corp., which tracks retail sales, reported that in-store sales fell 3.5 percent compared with the week after Thanksgiving in 2007.

However, the poll results conflict with economic projections and a consumer poll by the National Retail Federation.

"Our economic forecast is calling for 2.2 percent growth (in holiday spending), and consumers said they were going to spend 1.9 percent more this year than last," said National Retail Federation spokesman Scott Krugman.

In the Ipsos/McClatchy poll, of those who said they would spend less this year, 48 percent said they didn't have extra money to spend, were anxious about the future, or were otherwise coping with the economic downturn. Another 30 percent cited the bad economy in general as their reason for spending less. Some 15 percent cited worries about their job. And 13 percent said they were trying to save money this holiday season.

The mean-average amount that Americans plan to spend over the holidays was $840, but that's skewed by high amounts at the top. The median, or midpoint, of what respondents said they would spend was $500.

Some 33 percent said they planned to spend between $401 and $1,000 for holiday gifts, while 20 percent expected to spend less than $200 and another 14 percent between $201 and $400. Some 7 percent expected to spend between $1,001 and $2,000 and another 7 percent expected to spend more than $2,001. Some 10 percent weren't sure how much they expect to spend.

The nationwide poll of 1,068 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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