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Holiday Spending in the U.S.: Spending on Gifts and Charity


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Americans love to celebrate and holidays create a reason to rejoice and reflect and spend time with loved ones. Along the way, an estimated $133.6 billion will be spent on festivities in 2008, across the six largest holiday spending occasions. While Americans love to spend all year round, holidays give people a reason to shop and to celebrate. For many shoppers, the Winter Holidays represent their major annual spree and in 2008 it is estimated that 58% of holiday spending dollars will be attributed to Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza.

Holiday Spending in the U.S. covers spending for Winter Holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza) Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Halloween. Trends in consumer spending and gift giving are discussed throughout this report, and for that reason, non-gift giving occasions such as Thanksgiving and July Fourth are excluded, whereas Halloween, because of its marked growth in popularity and consumer spending, is included.

Because they are a reflection of how Americans choose to spend their money in terms of broader causes, contributions to charity are also reviewed.

Sources and Methodology

Holiday spending estimates were compiled from more than 10 sources that released holiday spending projections. These include the Conference Board, the International Council of Shopping Centers, BIGresearch, and the Consumer Electronics Association. These sources were benchmarked against each other, and compared to retail sales during the holiday periods under review.

What You’ll Get in this Report

What’s Covered

  • Holiday spending figures for gifts and other spending (décor, food candy, cards, plants and flowers) are quantified by holiday for 2004-2008. Spending figures are made up of three components, the number of households, the percentage of households participating, and the average expenditure per household.
  • Key drivers in holiday spending, the role of economic conditions in participation and retail spending
  • Trends in spending by holiday are identified for each holiday. Holiday spending by channel is trended for major retail channels, including department stores, discount department stores, grocery stores, drug stores, warehouse and club stores, toy specialty stores, and specialty electronics retailers. A comprehensive review of the online channel is also provided.
  • The holiday spending consumer is analyzed; who spends the most and who is the most generous. The role of the economy in consumer indecision and procrastination is revealed as are tips for the retail channel to adapt to the shrinking window for Winter Holiday shopping.
  • A review of trends in retail formats is provided, from traditional malls, to lifestyle centers, kiosks and automated stores.
  • Where the market is going, forecasts for holiday spending through 2012 by year and by holiday. "Green marketing,” pet indulgence, personalized gifts and gifts of experience trends are also explored.


  • Executive Summary
    • Report Methodology
    • Market Size and Growth
      • Definition
    • Consumer Spending - Overview
      • Conscientious spenders
    • Winter Holidays will Account for 58% of Holiday Spending Dollars in 2008
      • Table Holiday Spending, by Occasion 2004-2008 (million $)
    • Why is Winter Holiday spending declining?
      • Many Factors Point to Lowered Spending on Winter Holidays
      • Impulse spending weakens
      • Spending Less on Others is a Trend
    • Definition of "gift" gets fuzzy
    • Americans spend more…on themselves
    • Pets love Holidays too
    • The influence of religion on faith-based holidays can't be measured
    • While Winter Holidays weaken, others shine
      • Table Holiday Participation 2003-2007/2008
    • Other Holiday spending
    • Restaurants and Holiday takeout
      • Holiday Candy sales hold steady
    • Holiday Spending by Occasion
      • Christmas is big… but celebrations slide
      • Santa fatigue?
      • Tighter wallets, Mall avoidance and impulse spending
      • Family tops the gift list, but non-gift items see faster growth
      • Fewer gifts under a nicer tree
    • Gift givers get indecisive
      • Fastest growth segments, Consumer Electronics, Gift Cards, Food Gifts
    • Mother's Day
    • Moms love homemade gifts…but anything personal is appreciated
    • Easter
    • No Need for Easter Clothes
    • Valentine's Day
    • Father's Day
    • Halloween
    • Holiday Spending - the Consumer
    • Who gets gifts?
    • Family and children top the list for Winter Holiday spending
    • Generation Y, Hispanics, $75+ income groups most likely to spread cheer to co-workers and others
    • Co-workers and "Others" get dropped from gift lists in lean times, but Hispanics and upper income respondents just try to spend less
    • Who gets gifts?
      • Households with incomes of $150K spend three times on average for gifts, but the middle aged are most generous
    • Even the well-to-do scale back
    • What do Holiday shoppers buy?
      • Lean times test the practicality of gift cards
    • Gift packaged chocolates and specialty food gifts
    • All Other Spending, Décor, Greeting Cards, Flowers and Plants
    • When do people shop?
      • The earliest birds are retired females
      • Thanksgiving Weekend Shoppers young, diverse and looking for bargains
      • More push off shopping until the last minute
    • How people really feel about Winter Holiday gift spending
    • Holiday dropouts?
      • Table "Will you celebrate the upcoming Winter Holidays?" by Gender, Race and Income, 2007 and point change from 2005-2007
      • An indulged shopper will indulge others
      • Nothing can replace the magic of a special gift
  • Channels, Retail Formats, and Notable Players in Holiday Spending
    • While customers tune out media, In-store marketing can converts shoppers to buyers
      • Shopping malls and their tenants suffer from "mall avoidance" while Santa's lap sees fewer little ones
      • Malls Fight Back but Lifestyle Centers see more shoppers
      • Kiosks and Automated stores offer flexibility and generate impulse sales
    • Channels
      • Department stores
    • Discounters
    • Warehouse clubs and Supercenters
    • Grocery jumps in with big ticket items
    • Drugstores make choices easy for Holiday spending
    • Holiday jewelry spending slides but the bridal industry keeps things afloat
    • Safety concerns, Easter, lead turnaround for the toy channel
    • Electronics retailers
    • Online Venues Amazon.com is top of mind for holiday spending
    • Home and Furniture stores jump in too
    • Budgets and Payment Methods
    • The Future for Holiday Spending
      • Three factors will slow Consumer spending
    • Cause/green marketing works, but it must be sincere
    • Retailers will continue to create a "reason to buy"
    • "Gifts of experience" shine, but keep them simple
    • Lower prices, changing technology and broad distribution build holiday sales for electronic gifts
    • Pet indulgence continues
    • Coupons make a comeback
    • Gifts get personal
    • Getting shoppers back to the mall
    • Holiday spending 2008-2012, by occasion
      • Table Holiday Spending: Projections 2008-2012 (million $)
    • Mother's Day spending steady
    • Easter popularity builds
    • Valentine's Day Steady
    • Father's Day evolves
    • Halloween is getting all grown up
    • Summary
  • Market Size and Growth
    • Introduction
    • Scope of Report
    • Report Methodology
    • Total Consumer Spending - Overview
      • Table Consumer Spending - Advance Retail Monthly Sales (in $ millions) GAFO 1992-2007
    • Consumer Confidence and Spending
      • Conscientious spenders
    • Fewer things, broader causes -- charitable donations rise
      • Table Charitable Donations 2007 and % change vs. YA by type of organization
    • Total Holiday Spending - Overview
      • Winter Holidays will Account for 58% of Holiday Spending Dollars in 2008
        • Table Holiday Spending, by Occasion 2004-2008 (million $)
    • Why is Winter Holiday spending declining?
      • Many Factors Point to Lowered Spending on Winter Holidays
        • Table U.S. Census Households by Composition
      • Impulse spending weakens
      • Spending Less on Others is a Trend
        • Table Annual Gift Spending in total and as a percentage of expenditures 1990-2006
    • Definition of "gift" gets fuzzy
    • Americans spend more…on themselves
    • Pets love Holidays too
    • The influence of religion on faith-based holidays can't be measured
    • While Winter Holidays weaken, others shine
      • Table Holiday Participation 2003-2007/2008
    • Competition inspires creativity
    • Other Holiday spending
      • Greeting cards holding steady
      • Gift wrap and bag demand is steady
    • Spending on Décor on the Rise
      • Restaurants and Holiday takeout
      • Holiday Candy sales hold steady
        • Table Holiday Candy sales for Christmas, Easter, Valentine's and Halloween. All channels 2004-2008* (million $)
  • Holiday Spending by Occasion
    • Winter Holidays
      • Table Participation in Winter Holidays 2003-2007
      • Table Participation in Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa 2003-2007
      • Christmas is big… but celebrations slide
      • St Nick's had a long journey
      • Santa fatigue?
      • Tighter wallets?
        • Table Winter Holiday Spending, per Household and Total 2004-2008
      • Mall avoidance and impulse spending
      • Hanukah's popularity difficult to trend
      • Kwanzaa celebrants' reject commercialism
      • Family tops the gift list, but non-gift items see faster growth
        • Table Winter Holiday Expenditures, by Household and Total 2003-2007
      • Fewer gifts under a nicer tree
      • Are real trees more green? For some, it's a tough sell
    • Gift givers get indecisive
      • Table Winter Holiday Expenditures, by Household and Total 2003-2007
      • Consumer Electronics and Computer Accessories Post Strongest Growth as Gifts over Five Years
    • Mother's Day
      • Table Participation in Mother's Day 2004-2008
      • Table Mother's Day Spending, per respondent average, total (in $ millions) 2005-2008
      • Table Who's Getting the Mother's Day Gifts 2005-2008
      • A few buying a lot
        • Table Type of gifts planned for Mother's Day 2005-2008
    • Moms love homemade gifts
      • But anything personal is appreciated
      • Fewer, more expensive cards
    • Easter
      • Table Easter participation 2003-2008
      • Table Easter Spending, per respondent average & total (in $ millions) 2004-2008
    • Goodies hold up Easter spending
      • Table Easter Spending, per respondent average, total (in $ millions) 2004-2008
      • No Need for Easter Clothes
    • Valentine's Day
      • Table Valentine's Day participation 2004-2008
      • Table Valentine's Day Spending 2004-2008
      • Table Valentine's Day Spending, per respondent average, total (in percent) 2004-2008
      • No Gift at All May be the Safest Kind
    • Father's Day
      • Table Participation in Father's Day 2004-2008
      • Table Father's Day Spending, per respondent average, total (in $ millions) 2004-2008
      • Table Who's on the Father's Day shopping list? 2003-2007
      • Table Type of gifts planned for Father's Day 2004-2008
      • Dad is tough to shop for
    • Halloween
      • Table Halloween participation 2003-2007
      • Table Halloween spending per respondent average, total (in $ millions) 2004-2007
      • Table How will you celebrate Halloween? (Check all that apply)
      • Table What will you buy to celebrate Halloween? 2003-2007
      • Table How much do you plan to spend on Halloween related merchandise? per respondent average, total (in $ millions) 2003-2007
  • Holiday Spending - the Consumer
    • Overview
    • Who gets gifts?
    • Family tops the list for Winter Holiday spending
    • Children drive gift spending
    • Younger people most likely to buy for friends
    • Generation Y, Hispanics, $75K+ income groups most likely to spread cheer to co-workers
      • Table Co-worker gift spending, by age, race, and $75K+ incomes 2007, Percent spending a planned expenditure
      • Table "Other" gift spending, by age, race, and $75K+ incomes 2007, Percent spending and planned expenditure
    • Co-workers and "Others" are first to get dropped from gift lists in lean times
    • Hispanics and higher income respondents don't like to cut Winter Holiday gifts for outsiders, but they try to spend less
    • Pets are too cute to miss the fun, spending stable even in lean times
    • Who gives gifts?
      • Households with incomes of $150K spend three times on average for gifts
    • Income is a strong predictor of gift spending dollars
      • Table Gift Spending by Income & Generosity (gift share of total spending) 2006, $ %
    • Middle aged are most generous
      • Table Gift expenditures by age group 200
    • Even the well-to-do scale back
    • What do Holiday shoppers buy?
    • 18-24-year-olds, Hispanics, Blacks favor clothing gifts, but middle-aged spend the most
      • Table 2006 Annual gift spending on apparel and accessories, by age and ethnicity
    • Books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games appeal to younger households and those with kids
      • Table Plan to buy Books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games for Winter Holiday gifts, by household incomes, presence of kids, and employment status 2007
      • Gift cards to bookstores third most popular kind of gift card
    • Gift cards and certificates have universal appeal
      • Gift cards and certificates are a planned gift
      • Card values steady, but higher income groups buy more of them
        • Table Purchased gift cards, gift certificates for Winter Holiday gifts, by household income, presence of kids, and employment status 2007
      • Lean times test the practicality of gift cards
    • Gift packaged chocolates and specialty food gifts
      • Consumer Food Gifting up 56% since 2004; Now 15% of Gift Sales
        • Table Percentage Purchasing Specialty Food Gifts, by Occasion
      • Valentine's Day Biggest Occasion for Gift-packaged Candy
      • One-Third Give Specialty Food Gifts for Winter Holidays
    • All Other Spending
    • Decorations
      • Table Percent than plan to buy decor for Winter Holidays, total, marital status, household type, employment status, race and income $75k+ 2007
    • Greeting cards and postage
      • Table Percent that plan to buy cards and postage for Winter Holidays, total and by household type, employment status, race and income $75k+ 2007
    • Hispanics, $75K+ income groups are the biggest spenders on flowers and plants
      • Table Percent that plan to buy flowers and plants for Winter Holidays, total and by household type, employment status, race and income $75k+ 2007
    • When do people shop?
      • The earliest birds are retired females
        • Table When will you do your Winter Holiday shopping? Total, and by employment status and gender 2007
    • Thanksgiving Weekend Shoppers young, diverse and looking for bargains
      • Table Will you shop Thanksgiving Weekend? 2007
    • More push off shopping until the last minute
    • Spending on services outpaces goods
    • How people really feel about Winter Holiday gift spending
    • Holiday dropout?
      • Table "Will you celebrate the upcoming Winter Holidays?" by Gender and Race 2005-2007
      • An indulged shopper will indulge others
      • Nothing can replace the magic of a special gift
  • Channels, Retail Formats, and Notable Players in Holiday Spending
    • Media and Advertising
    • Customers tune out media
    • Winter Holiday shopping frustrations are high
    • In store marketing - converting shoppers to buyers
    • Formats
      • Shopping malls and their tenants suffer from "mall avoidance"
      • Mall construction grinds to a halt
    • But malls have the best Santas
      • Santa's lap sees fewer little ones
      • Malls Fight Back
      • Lifestyle Centers, not just a place to shop, but a "place to be"
      • Kiosks are visible, flexible and ideal for impulse sales
      • Automated Stores
    • Channels
      • Department stores
        • Table Department store annual sales, YTD May Sales & Nov-Dec Sales 2006-2008 (in million $)
        • Table Department store monthly sales 2006- May 2008 (in million $)
      • Discount Department Stores
        • Table Winter Holiday shopping destinations October & December 2007 Discount Department stores, Department Stores & Online
    • Company profile: Macy's Inc.
      • Differentiating itself
    • Discounters
      • Table Discount Department store annual sales, YTD May Sales & Nov-Dec Sales 2006-2008 (in million $)
      • Table Discount department store monthly sales 2006-May 2008 (in billion $)
      • Table Plan on buying gifts at Discount department stores this year Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day 2006-2008
    • Company Profile - Target
      • Table Target sales and growth 2002-2006 (in million $)
    • Warehouse clubs and Supercenters
      • Table Warehouse clubs and Superstores, Annual Sales, Winter Holiday Sales % Change vs. YA 2008-May 2008 (in billion $)
      • Table Warehouse club and Supercenter monthly sales 2006-May 2008 (in billion $)
    • Company Profile - Wal-Mart
    • Grocery jumps in with big ticket items
      • Table Grocery Annual Sales, Winter Holiday Sales % Change vs. YA 2002-2006 (in million $)
    • Drugstores make choices easy for Holiday spending
      • Table Pharmacies and Drug stores, Annual Sales, Winter Holiday Sales % Change vs. YA 2008-May 2006 (in million $)
    • Holiday jewelry spending slides but the bridal industry keeps things afloat
      • Table Jewelry stores Annual Sales, Winter Holiday Sales % Change vs. YA 2006-May 2008 (in million $)
      • Table Jewelry stores monthly sales 2006-May 2008 (in million $)
      • Table Plan to buy Jewelry as a gift, Mother's Day, Winter Holidays & Valentine's Day 2005-2008 Percentage of respondents
    • Safety concerns, Easter, lead turnaround for the toy channel
      • Table Hobby, toy, and game stores, Annual Sales, Winter Holiday Sales % Change vs. YA 2006-May 2008 (in million $)
      • Table Hobby, toy and game stores, monthly sales 2006-May 2008 (in million $)
      • Must have toys for Winter Holidays
    • Electronics retailers
      • Table Radio, TV and other electronic Stores, Annual Sales, Winter Holiday Sales % Change vs. YA 2006-2008 YTD May (in million $)
      • Table Plan to buy Consumer electronics or computer related accessories as a gift Winter Holidays, Father's Day & Mother's Day 2004-2008 Percentage of respondents
      • Table Radio, TV, and other electronic Stores Monthly sales 2006-May 2008 (in million $)
    • Online Venues Amazon.com is top of mind for holiday spending
      • Table Estimated Quarterly U.S. Retail Sales -Adjusted: Total and E-commerce sales Q1 2005-Q1 2008
      • Table Plan to shop online, Winter Holidays, Father's Day & Mother's Day 2004-2008 Percentage of respondents
      • Table ONE site where Winter Holiday shoppers did most of their shopping and change vs. year ago January 2007 & 2008 Percentage selecting by site
    • Gift cards may be losing their luster
      • Table Types of Winter Holiday Gifts Respondents Prefer to Receive 2007 (percent)
      • Table Plan to buy a gift card or gift certificate, Winter Holidays, Father's Day & Mother's Day 2005-2008 (percent)
    • Clothing retailers
      • Table Plan to buy clothing for the Holiday, Winter Holidays, Easter, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Point change vs. year ago 2005-2008 YTD June
    • Home and Furniture stores jump in too
    • Budgets and Payment Methods
      • Payment methods vary by consumer
        • Table Payment methods used most often (ONE ONLY) Winter Holidays, 2004-2008
        • Table Preferred credit card, Winter Holidays 2004-2008
      • Women more likely to budget
  • The Future for Holiday Spending
    • Holiday spending is discretionary
    • Three factors will slow Consumer spending
    • Cause/green marketing works, but it must be sincere
    • Retailers will continue to create a "reason to buy"
    • "Gifts of experience" shine, but keep them simple
    • Lower prices, changing technology and broad distribution build holiday sales for electronic gifts
    • Pet indulgence continues
    • Coupons make a comeback
    • Gifts get personal
    • Procrastination and Mall Avoidance
    • Holiday spending 2008-2012, by occasion
      • Christmas in July?
        • Table Holiday Spending: Projections 2008-2012 (million $)
    • Mother's Day spending steady
    • Easter popularity builds
    • Valentine's Day Steady
    • Father's Day evolves
    • Halloween is getting all grown up
    • Summary
  • Addresses of Selected Marketers

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