For shoppers and retailers alike, it's beginning to look a lot like last Christmas. With consumer spending normally among the last pieces of the economy to recover from a recession, Americans still feel mired in one, according to holiday spending surveys done by Big Research for the National Retail Federation.
"There is a psychological effect lingering over the recession with 62 percent of shoppers saying the economy will affect their gift spending," said Pam Goodfellow, senior analyst at Big Research.
The average household is budgeting $689 — $7 more than 2009 — for gifts, food, decorations and candy. NRF economists forecast a below average 2.3 percent gain to $447 billion over tepid general merchandise sales of a year ago.
Retailers see hopeful glimmers in the results. Interest in getting jewelry as a gift is up 20 percent this season. Growing numbers plan to buy something for themselves, value quality or customer service over just price and will look beyond only the practical. One in four of those equipped with smart phones plans to use them to comparison shop or buy.