U.S. Consumers Curtail 2008 Holiday Spending

U.S. Consumers Curtail 2008 Holiday Spending

Nielsen is forecasting sales of more than $98 billion for the November-December 2008 holiday retail season.  But amid worsening economic conditions, U.S. consumers are likely to be more cautious than ever with their spending. 

A recent Nielsen survey of 21,000 U.S. households found that 35% plan to spend less this year than they did in 2007.  Just 6% will spend more this year, while 50% say they’ll maintain the same level of spending from 2007.

Lower-income households reported large reductions in their holiday spending — but so did high income households.  In all, 37% of lower-income households are expected to cut back on holiday spending, as will 34% of higher income households.

What’s Hot?

Necessities — rather than novelties and luxuries — are expected to drive holiday sales this year, according to Nielsen’s research.

Toiletries, baby care products, food items, and gift cards for groceries, gasoline, telephone, and car maintenance are expected to see strong sales.

Practical, cold-weather apparel — socks, fleece jackets, and undergarments — and household goods, like cook books, bed/bath linens, and kitchen supplies are also expected to sell well in November and December. 

Among more affluent consumers, fireplace accessories, kitchen ware, family games, and other at-home entertainments will dominate sales. 

As in past years, DVDs, video games, mobile phones, books, and wines and spirits are also expected to generate a fair share of holiday sales. 

Although many consumers are curtailing their spending on out-of-home food, alcohol, and entertainment, sales of movie tickets, which remain an affordable luxury, are expected to stay strong in November and December.


What’s Not?Department stores and retailers of electronics, toys, home improvement supplies, and office supplies are likely to feel the brunt of the economic slowdown as consumers shift their purchases to more value-oriented retailers.   



Where’s the Action?Online retailers, dollar stores, grocery stores, supercenters, mass merchandisers, and club stores are expected to attract the lion’s share of holiday spending, as consumers seek to minimize the number of shopping trips they make — and find good values.



View in depth Nielsen data on consumer holiday spending projections.

Read Nielsen’s holiday sales forecast.

Go behind the numbers: read NielsenWire’s Q&A with James Russo, co-author of Nielsen’s holiday retail forecast.

Read coverage of Nielsen’s findings in Adweek, Media Post, Promo, and the Rocky Mountain News.

Submit questions about the report to Nielsen forecast co-authors, James Russo and Todd Hale, by commenting below.