Spending Less, Maybe, But Still Spending a Lot

Amid all the reports forecasting a lousy Christmas season for marketers, it’s worth bearing in mind that a lot of consumers will spend a lot of money. Even while offering what it headlines as “A Bleak First Look at Christmas Spending,” a new Gallup survey conveys this point. When asked to say roughly how much they expect to spend on Christmas gifts this year, 30 percent of respondents said they’ll shell out $1,000 or more. Another 25 percent expect to spend $500 to $999. The average figure for all respondents is $801 — down significantly from $909 in last October’s polling, but not chicken feed.

Still, Gallup’s report does not stint on the pre-holiday gloom. When people were asked whether they expect to spend more, less or the same amount as they did last year, the ratio of “less” responses (35 percent) to “more” responses (9 percent) was “by far the most inauspicious Gallup has seen for the nation’s retailers.”

One saving grace is that people typically overrate the likelihood that they’ll spend less on Christmas gifts. In last October’s Gallup poll on the topic, 14 percent of respondents said they’d spend more and 25 percent said they’d spend less than they had the previous year. When the season’s retail spending was toted up, though, it was higher than it had been in 2006 – even if by just a measly 1.4 percent.

The other saving grace is that gas prices are now more than a dollar lower per gallon than they were at their peak this past summer, and show no immediate sign of reversing their downward trajectory. (The price of a gallon of regular gas today is exactly the same as the price one year ago, according to AAA