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Clothing high on US consumer holiday wishlists

A new US consumer survey points to expectations of a busy holiday season, with shoppers indicating they will spend an average of 4.1% more this year than last – with clothing the second most popular gift request.

According to the annual research from the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers said they would spend an average of $1,007.24 this year, up from the $967.13 they said they would spend when surveyed at the same time last year.

For the twelfth year in a row, gift cards remain the most popular items on wishlists, requested by 60% of those surveyed, followed by clothing and accessories at 53%.

"The holidays are just around the corner and consumers are ready to shop," says NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. "Confidence is near an all-time high, unemployment is the lowest we've seen in decades and take-home wages are up. All of that is reflected in consumers' buying plans.

"Retailers expect strong demand this year, and are prepared with a wide array of merchandise while offering strong deals and promotions during the busiest and most competitive shopping season of the year period."

The consumer survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, comes on top of NRF's annual holiday spending forecast, which projects holiday retail sales in November and December will be up by between 4.3% and 4.8% over 2017 for a total between US$717.45bn and $720.89bn. The amount is up from $687.87bn last year.

In addition, while tariffs on a wide range of consumer goods from China took effect last month, retailers imported record volumes of merchandise ahead of the tariffs this summer and said any effect on pricing during the holiday season is expected to be minimal.

Holiday spending comes in three main categories: gifts, at $637.67; items such as food, decorations, flowers and greeting cards, at $215.04; and other non-gift items consumers buy for themselves and their families, at $154.53.

An equal number (55%) will shop at online and in department stores while 51% percent will go to discount stores, and 33% percent to clothing stores.

Most consumers (60%) are waiting until at least November to begin holiday shopping. However, 21% planned to start in October and 18% said they began in September or earlier. Of the early shoppers, 61% said they are trying to spread out their budgets while 47% wanted to avoid the crowds and stress of last-minute shopping.

Meanwhile, sales and discounts remained the largest factor in choosing a particular retailer, cited by 71%. "Consumers will be scouring through retailers' ads to make sure they are getting the best deal possible," Prosper Insights executive vice president of strategy Phil Rist says. "Although sales will remain an important factor, shoppers want good quality and want to be able to find what they're looking for."

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