Apparel is set to be a bright spot in this year's holiday shopping, but sales will be driven by value according to an annual survey of consumers' spending intentions.

Mass merchants will also be the top destinations for shoppers, says NPD Group Inc, the market research company that conducts the annual survey of consumers` holiday spending intentions, with 58% of respondents saying they will spend money here.

This is followed by online and national chains, at 37% and 32% respectively. But just 18% of consumers say they plan to buy gifts at clothing specialty stores and 12% eyeing sporting goods stores.

"At retail this holiday it's anyone's game to win," says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group.

"Retailers will be attempting to lure consumers in with a heavy focus on value. Consumers will be able to shop the high-end and low-end to find the best deals on similar products.

"This will be the holiday season of value with lots of deals enticing consumers to spend on gifts for others as well as themselves."

49% of consumers told NPD they intend to buy apparel as a gift - which makes it the most popular category this year - but shoppers also told NPD they "plan to spend less" this holiday.

"I think consumers will be looking for the right gift, rather than the most extravagant or expensive one, "Cohen notes.

"That, combined with the soft numbers we are up against from holiday last year, and I think we will see growth, albeit a modest 0.5% to 1.5%."

Respondents also pointed to a later start for this season`s shopping, and told NPD that the state of the economy will have a significant effect on their holiday spending.