NRF: Election Swaying Holiday Shopping Plans

With the election falling in the middle of holiday shopping, many U.S. consumers said they will have a more conservative holiday spending budget this year.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual consumer spending survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, consumers plan to spend an average of $935.58 during the holiday shopping season. Total spending includes gifts for others and self-spending. However, total planned spending this year is still second only to the record total spending in 2015, at $952.58.

“Everywhere you turn— whether you’re picking up a newspaper or watching television— political advertisements are taking up ad space that retailers typically use to get holiday shopping on the minds of consumers across the country,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. “Once the election has passed, we anticipate consumers will pull themselves out of the election doldrums and into the holiday spirit.”

In a separate NRF flash poll conducted by ORC International, more than a quarter of consumers said the election will impact spending plans for the holidays. In addition, 43% said they are being more cautious with their spending due to the uncertainty of the election season. However, 87% of consumers could be convinced to spend an extra $25 this holiday season if tempted by a good sale or promotion, the perfect gift for themselves or others or free shipping.

“Retailers should prepare for a rush of consumers in the weeks following the presidential election as they get more economic and political certainty and are looking to take advantage of promotions and deals that are too good to pass up for their friends, family and even themselves,” Shay said.

According to the survey, 58% of consumers plan to buy for themselves, spending an average of $139.61, up 4% from last year’s $133.74 and marking the second-highest level of personal spending in the survey’s 13-year history.

Consumers seem to be splitting their time almost evenly between three top destinations: department stores (57%), online (also 57%) and discount stores (56%). Most online shoppers will take advantage of free shipping (93%) and conveniences like buy online, pick up in store or ship-to-store (47%). In addition, 17% will take advantage of expedited shipping and 10% will use same-day delivery.

Close to half of consumers have been tackling their holiday lists early again this year, with 41% saying they started shopping in October or earlier. The same percentage said they will start in November, and 18% will wait until December.

The Prosper Analytics & Insights survey asked 7,733 consumers about holiday shopping plans, was conducted October 4-11 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.