Commentary

Moms, Dads, Kids and Teachers Safest on Gift List; But Mood is Upbeat

According to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, The "joyful" outlook for this holiday season might surprise you, as this brighter consumer mood translates into buying behavior.

When given the choice of describing their attitude going into the holiday season as joyful or gloomy, 41% of the general population say they are "joyful".  42% are even-keeled, saying they are "neither joyful nor gloomy," and only 13% have a "gloomy" attitude.  69% of young professionals and 53% of the affluent report a joyful outlook.

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10% of consumers plan to spend more this year than last on holiday gifts, and 43% about the same. 58% favor gift cards as the go-to present of the season versus all other gift selections. The best way to a "consumer's heart," according to the study, is  apparently with a 30% discount. 

In the next 30 days 22% of U.S. consumers expect to spend more when compared to the last 30 day period. Notably, 28% of young professionals say they've been saving and now have enough to spend, and 28% are expecting an increase in income for themselves or from a spouse or partner. 

On the flip side, 22% of consumers say they will whittle down the number of people on their list.  In general, if consumers have to make a choice to cut someone from their list in order to stay within their budget:

  • Coworkers are the first to go (17%)
  • Followed by service providers such as postal carriers, hair and nail stylists (14%)
  • Then extended family and friends (13%)   

 Members of the immediate family, pets and close friends are the safest: 

  • Only two% would eliminate teachers from the gift list
  • Less than 1% would eliminate mom, dad or the kids

 Pamela Codispoti, American Express senior vice president and general manager, Cardmember Services, says "Even after more than a year of recession... consumers intend to spend on loved ones, with a plan to give more gift cards and electronics than other items... (and) a clear majority will do as much or more as last year when it comes to charitable giving."

79% of consumers intend to utilize the Internet as a tool to help with holiday shopping:

  • 45% will use the Internet to purchase items
  • 28% will use it for hard-to-find items
  • 27% to research products,
  • 25% will go online to simply look for gift ideas.
  • 50% will most likely spend on clothing and accessories

In terms of the largest and most expensive single purchase holiday buyers will make, consumers expect to spend the most on technology gifts (with an average gift costing $450) followed by gift cards (with an average gift costing $270).  The spending increases for affluents, with averages of $590 for technology and $350 for gift cards respectively. 

Young professionals are more likely to give entertainment-related gifts such as movie or theatre tickets (38%) or experiential gifts (24%) vs. the general population (18% and 7% respectively).

63% of consumers expect to do some type of charitable giving over the holidays, despite the fact that 54% of consumers say that as a result of the economy they will be cutting back on the number of gifts they purchase.  69% plan to do more or the same when it comes to charity this holiday as they did last year.  22% of young professionals say they plan to do more compared to last year.

 36% of general population favor donating money to an organization is the top way consumers like to give. Other gift and charitable considerations include:

  • 31% of consumers favor purchasing gifts or grocery items for a needy family
  • 18% like to volunteer their time
  • 25% of the general population plan to pare back on charitable giving this year
  • 46% of consumers say they plan to spend less on gifts

 The study found that price discounts are the top motivator for getting consumers into the checkout line.  And free shipping, a free gift with purchase and bonus reward points motivate holiday shoppers as they think about making purchases.

  • 70% of consumers say discounts would be the top motivator to get them to shop within the next 30 days, with a 30% discount the average:
  • 47% of young professionals say they would be willing to begin spending with discounts as low as 10%
  • 45% of holiday shoppers could be tempted to start their holiday shopping if they were offered free or faster shipping 
  • 35% want free gift with purchase
  • 22% say bonus reward points
  • Free gifts appeal to 52% of young professionals
  • Bonus reward points get the interest of 45% of young professionals and 33% of affluents

 For the complete release, please visit here, and to view the PDF file of detailed charts and graphs, please to here.

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