Survey Forecasts Cautious Holiday Spending

A survey released this week by the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and the Consumer Federation of America indicates that consumers plan to be guarded in their holiday spending despite an economy that is showing signs of recovery.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said they plan to spend as much or more than they spent during the 2010 holiday season, up 3 percent from last year’s survey results. However, just 8 percent said they specifically plan on increasing holiday spending, and 41 percent of American consumers interviewed said they plan to spend less this year than in 2010.

“While these results convince us that holiday spending will increase this year-elements of our survey also underline the fact many consumers continue to harbor significant concerns about the economy and their personal finances,” said Mike Schenk, CUNA’s senior economist. “Because of this, we expect the increase in holiday spending this season to be modest—roughly half the five-percent long-run average increase.”

Low- and middle-income households continue to be hit hardest by the recession. Only 13 percent of households with annual incomes below $25,000 reported that their financial situation had improved since the previous year, while 50 percent reported being in a worse position. Similarly, 24 percent of households falling between $25,000 and $50,000 annually said that their financial situation was improving, with 33 percent of those households reporting having taken a step backward.

“The good news is that spending plans are stronger than they were at the worst stage of the recession in 2008,” said Bill Hampel, CUNA’s chief economist. “The bad news is spending plans are still considerably below where they were before the recession.”

In completing their 11th-annual survey, CUNA and Consumer Federation America interviewed 1,011 adults in mid-November, with questions ranging from concern over credit card payments to the impact of the economy on consumers’ lives.


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