NPD Report: 2011 Holiday Spending to Mirror Last Year

It’s beginning to look a lot like last year when it comes to holiday spending, according to market research firm The NPD Group Inc., which today released results of its annual survey of consumers’ holiday spending intentions.

The majority of consumers who responded to the survey, 64 percent, said they planned to spend about the same amount on gifts in 2011 as they did in 2010, nearly on par with last year’s 61 percent.

Twenty-seven percent of shoppers reported they would spend less (compared with 30 percent in 2010), while only 9 percent said they would spend more, a number that matched last year’s survey. Clothing, toys and books retained their spots as the top three gift categories.

“Looking at this year’s responses, I see consumers that aren’t willing to open their wallets and spend more vigorously,” Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, said in a statement. “With more consumers telling us they plan to ‘spend about the same’ and no additional consumers planning to ‘spend more,’ we will see this holiday’s results look quite a bit like last holiday’s.”

Notable from the 2011 survey was the growing importance of e-commerce for holiday shoppers. There was an increase of three points in the number of consumers planning to shop online — 38 percent for 2011 versus 35 percent in 2010. The Internet came in second on the list of top shopping destinations, with discount stores first. National chains came in third, and department stores were fourth.

Despite their status, Cohen said discount stores would likely be challenged this holiday season.

“They remain steadfast in trying to hang on to consumers [who] found them when it was all about lower prices,” he said in the statement, “but now consumers are looking for value and also willing to pay a little more. [Discount stores] will have to work very aggressively to lure shoppers in early and often with sales and name brands for less.”

No matter where people planned to shop, a positive sign was that a slightly higher percentage of consumers would be making purchases for themselves during the holidays — 19 percent compared with 17 percent last year.

“Without self-purchasing during the holiday season, growth is nearly impossible,” Cohen said. “Seeing this number climb is a good sign.”

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