Holiday Shoppers to Spend More — Lots More

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American consumers appear to think that the U.S. economy is back on track. At least that seems to be the case, based on how much consumers expect to spend on gifts this season.

According to a survey from Gallup, American shoppers plan to spend $830 on Christmas gifts this year, up from $720 last year and $704 in 2013. Expected spending this year is higher than in any year since 2007, when U.S. consumers spent $866 on average. Since 1999, only two years have posted higher average expenditures: 2013 and 1999 ($857). Notably both of the higher spending years preceded sharp downturns in the nation’s economy.

Big spenders are responsible for most of the increase. According to Gallup, Americans living in households earning $75,000 or more per year plan to spend an average of $1,227 on Christmas gifts this season. This drops to $786 among middle-income earners and to $460 among those earning less than $30,000.

Some 30% of shoppers plan to spend more than $1,000 this year, compared with 25% of those surveyed last year. Those planning to spend $500 to $999 accounted for 21% of shoppers in both years. As the ranges descend from there, however, the percentage of Americans planning to spend in each range drops compared with a year ago. For example, 5% of shoppers spent less than $100 on Christmas gifts last year, while this year just 2% of shoppers plan to spend that amount. And compared with Americans who said they would spend nothing, the percentage dropped from 9% to 8% year over year.

And what are Americans spending their holiday cash to buy? Some 59% of U.S. consumers are asking Santa for a gift cards this year and, according to the National Retail Federation, gift card buyers will spend an average of $173 on gift plastic this year.

CardHub.com lists the top 50 most popular gift cards for this year and their resale value for those gift receivers would like to sell their gift cards for cash or some other card. The top five gift cards by CardHub rank are Visa (94% resale value), Amazon (92%), American Express (92%), iTunes (82%) and Wal-Mart (96.5%).

Some other data points from CardHub:

  • The gift cards that increased in popularity the most from 2014 to 2015 are the TJ Maxx Gift Card, the Chick-Fil-A Gift Card and the Home Depot Gift Card.
  • The gift cards whose popularity declined the most in the past year are the Ikea Gift Card and the QVC Gift Card.
  • Shell has the highest resale value (99%), followed by Walmart and Target (96.5%).
  • The gift cards with the lowest resale value are from Google Play (79%) and H&M (74%).

The folks at CardHub also suggest that gift card buyers check online gift card exchanges for possible discounts and offer a number of other observations that buyers may want to keep in mind when searching for that holiday gift.