Watchwords for 2009 holiday shopping: cautious, thrifty -- and online

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The Independent Online

Various reports forecasting the holiday shopping season trends abound with some similar conclusions about how consumers are approaching the task with some variance in types of items to be purchased.

According to the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, US households plan to spend an average of $390 this season on gifts, a slight decrease from last year's $418.

The survey conducted in November by the country's largest research firm indicates the more frugal mood among Christmas shoppers in 2009. Only 26 percent of households intend to spend $500 or more, 35 percent plan to spend $200-$500, and 39 percent plan to spend less than $200.

Despite improvements in the economy, lower ticket items are popular purchases, according the Conference Board, as follows:
- books (41.2%)
- apparel/footwear (40%)
- toys/games (35%)
- movies/DVDs (33.9%)
- gift certificates (25%)
- electronics (23.6%)
- music CDs (19.6%)
- jewelry (0.5%)
- tools & hardware (0.2%)

According to another research study by, a division of Experian, a credit reporting agency, one-third of shoppers will use the internet to shop. Convenience, the ease of price comparisons and lack of crowds are top reasons given. Also, one-half of the holiday budget will be spent online.

The responses of more than 4,500 consumers stated the recession still has an impact on gift purchases. Confirming data from the Conference Board, 54 percent plan to spend less this year and only 5 percent will spend more. Plus 58 percent will give practical gifts.

PriceGrabber's list of top items on shopper's lists include:

1. Computers/Laptops/Netbooks
2. Jewelry/Watches
3. Clothes/Shoes
4. Digital cameras/DSLRs
5. Video game consoles
6. iPods/MP3 players
7. Books
8. Cell phones/Smart phones
9. Blu-Ray DVD players
10. E-Reader/Kindle.

Another survey by Retail Decisions predicts the Black Friday weekend will be lucrative, particularly for online retailers, and sales could hit $51 billion over the holiday season total, up 23 percent over last year. Specific items high on their list:

1. gift cards top the shopping charts across the nation
2. Xbox 360
3. Nintendo Wii
4. DVD box sets: Star Trek XI, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Night at the Museum, Angels & Demons, Terminator.

Confirming other surveys, Consumer Reports states that the retail sector is more stable though still recovering. It also expects personal electronics sales to rise by one-quarter (24.9 percent), with Americans' small or personal electronics purchases this month.