Clothing and accessories are the second most popular items on consumer wishlists this year

Clothing and accessories are the second most popular items on consumer wishlists this year

US shoppers say they will spend an average of 4% more this year than last – with clothing again the second most popular gift request – according to the findings of a new consumer survey.

According to annual research from the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers indicate they will spend an average of US$1,047.83 this year, up from the $1,007.24 they said they would spend when surveyed at the same time last year.

For the thirteenth year in a row, gift cards remain the most popular items on wishlists, requested by 59% of those surveyed, followed by clothing and accessories at 52%.

"Consumers are in good financial shape and willing to spend a little more on gifts for the special people in their lives this holiday season," says NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. "Retailers are fully prepared to meet the needs of holiday shoppers looking for that perfect mix of sales, quality and selection."

Shay adds retailers are expected to import near-record volumes of merchandise ahead of the tariffs that are scheduled to take effect on a wide range of consumer goods from China on 15 December.

The consumer survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, comes on top of NRF's annual holiday spending forecast, which projects holiday retail sales in November and December will be up by between 3.8% and 4.2% over 2018 for a total between $727.9bn and $730.7bn. The amount is up from $701.2bn last year.

Holiday spending comes in three main categories: gifts for family, friends, and co-workers, at an average $658.55; non-gift holiday items such as candy and food, decorations, greeting cards and flowers at $227.26; and other non-gift purchases that take advantage of the deals and promotions throughout the season at $162.02.

Meanwhile, shoppers plan to spread their shopping across multiple channels and types of stores. More than half (56%) say they will shop online.

Among online shoppers, 92% plan to take advantage of free shipping and 48% will use buy online, pick-up in-store or ship to store services, while 16% plan to use same-day delivery, which has doubled since 2015. The youngest online shoppers (ages 18 to 24) are the most likely to say they plan to use same-day delivery at 32%.

The majority of shoppers (53%) will also shop in department stores and 51% will go to discount stores, while 34% will head to clothing and accessory stores.

Similar to previous years, 39% of holiday shoppers says they will start buying holiday items before November, while 43% are waiting until at least November and 18% are waiting until December.

Sales and discounts are the factor in choosing a particular retailer, cited by 70%.

"Younger consumers are helping drive the spending increase this year," says Phil Rist, Prosper Insights executive vice president of strategy. "They're not just spending on their immediate family members, they're also treating their larger circle of co-workers and friends to gifts."