What will consumers spend this holiday? It depends on whom you ask

A number of recent studies offer contradictory predictions for consumers’ holiday shopping plans this year. Some studies forecast a gloomy holiday season, with consumers reining in spending. Others project that consumers will spend as much as—if not more than—last year.

According to Jupiter Media Metrix, online retail and travel sales will reach approximately $11.9 billion this year, an 11% increase over last year’s $10.8 billion. The study also concluded that 46 million people will be shopping online this holiday, up from 36 million in 2000.

A recent report from the National Retail Federation says that consumers plan to spend more this holiday season than originally predicted, with the average household spending $940 on gifts for family and friends, decorations, greeting cards, and food. The study also finds that while 72% of those surveyed plan to shop at stores, 60% plan to also shop by mail order, catalog, or Internet this year.

Management and technology consultancy Accenture also finds that stores are consumers’ shopping channel of choice, with 83% of consumers surveyed picking stores as their preferred shopping venue; only 11% voted for the Internet as first choice for shopping. What’s more, the study claims that 43% of consumers do not plan to shop more on the Internet this year than they did last year. And according to a report from market research firm Odyssey, of online shoppers who purchased something from the Internet in the first half of 2001, only 54% plan to purchase online again in the third and fourth quarters of the year—down from 71% a year ago.

As for overall holiday expenditures, Accenture estimates that shoppers will spend $200-$499—the same as last year. But Deloitte Research reports that holiday spending will decline about 1% this year. The Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center offers an even gloomier projection: U.S. households will spend an average of $462 on gifts this holiday season, down nearly 6% from last year’s projected average expenditure of $490. Still, the report claims that 22% of consumers plan to purchase gifts online this holiday, up from 21% last year. And the report claims that 90% of consumers were satisfied with their online experience last year.

Then again, according to “The eSpending Report,” only 35% of Americans are “very satisfied” with their online shopping experiences. On the brighter side, the report–released jointly by Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive, and NetRatings–notes that 17% of consumers say they are more satisfied with their online holiday shopping experience this year than last year.

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