Holiday Spending Could Rise Slightly

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A new survey of shoppers by the National Retail Federation projects a slight increase in consumer spending this holiday season.

Shoppers plan to spend an average of $688.87 this year in total holiday purchases (including gifts food, and decorations), up from $681.83 in 2009. While that $7.04 increase amounts to just 1%, it's a small comfort to an industry that has been rocked by the recession and saw sales crater in 2008.

“Consumers will still shop with the economy in the back of their minds, but we’re starting to see shoppers take baby steps toward a new normal,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay in a statement.

These “baby steps” are likely to come as a disappointment to retailers expecting – or at least hoping – for a big leap. For instance, a survey of online retailers conducted by the NRF's Shop.org this week found that two-thirds of respondents predicted a sales increase of 15% or more compared to last holiday season. The consumer survey throws a bucket of water on these retailers' optimism, however, as 43.9% of shoppers plan to shop online for the holidays, only a slight increase from the 42.4% that said the same in an identical survey last year. (With that said, there are plenty of great deals to be found online if you know where to look.)

Indeed, the modest uptick in consumers' holiday spending plans is in line with other metrics that have reflected stagnant discretionary spending. A recent poll by Harris Interactive found that Americans were no more inclined to make big-ticket purchases than they were two years ago. And perhaps most worrying for retailers, a Citi survey finds Americans less comfortable than ever with personal debt and discretionary spending, and adjusting their shopping habits accordingly.

In other words: We're in for another cold winter, folks.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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