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US retailers prepare for post-election shopping spree

US retailers are being advised to prepare for a rush of holiday shoppers after the presidential election next week, as consumers take advantage of promotions and deals to buy holiday season gifts and also treat themselves.

Latest data from the National Retail Federation's (NRF) annual consumer spending survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, shows consumers plan to spend an average of US$935.58 during the holiday shopping season. Total planned spending this year is second only to the record $952.58 total spending in 2015.

"Everywhere you turn — whether you're picking up a newspaper or watching television — political advertisements are taking up ad space that retailers typically use to get holiday shopping on the minds of consumers across the country," NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay explains. "Once the election has passed, we anticipate consumers will pull themselves out of the election doldrums and into the holiday spirit."

And consumers plan to put themselves at the top of their shopping lists, with a separate NRF flash poll, conducted last week, showing 58% plan to buy for themselves, spending an average of $139.61 – up 4% from last year's $133.74 and marking the second-highest level of personal spending in the survey's 13-year history.

"Retailers should prepare for a rush of consumers in the weeks following the presidential election as they get more economic and political certainty and are looking to take advantage of promotions and deals that are too good to pass up for their friends, family and even themselves," Shay adds. "Many shoppers are taking the approach of 'one for you, two for me' this holiday season.

"Retailers are preparing by offering a wide array of merchandise and promotions — items shoppers want to give as great gifts at prices so good they want to buy for themselves too."

Despite more than a quarter of consumers saying the election will impact their spending plans for the holidays, and 43% adding they are being more cautious with their spending due to the uncertainty of the election season, 87% of consumers could be convinced to spend an extra $25 this holiday season if tempted by a good sale or promotion, the perfect gift for themselves or others or free shipping.

Consumers will shop around, the NRF adds, splitting their time almost evenly between three top destinations: department stores (57%), online (57%) and discount stores (56%), while 34% will shop at clothing stores. In addition, 10% of those shopping plan to visit outlet stores, a new category added to the survey this year.

Meanwhile, close to half of consumers have been tackling their holiday lists early this year, with 41% saying they started shopping in October or before. Of the early shoppers, 63% say they are trying to spread out their budgets while 49% want to avoid the crowds and stress of last-minute shopping.

"While many holiday shoppers are starting early on their gift lists, millennials are waiting to catch the best deals for their gifts, with nearly half (46%) waiting until November to start shopping," Prosper Insights principal analyst, Pam Goodfellow says. "Younger consumers are likely to be looking forward to the Thanksgiving/Black Friday shopping 'experience' — and know that retailers will be offering great promotions that weekend."

Gift cards remain among the most popular gifts, sought by 61% of those surveyed, followed by clothing and accessories (54%).

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