'Tis the Season to Spend Money

Is it the most wonderful time of the year? Or the most expensive?

Is it the most wonderful time of the year? Or the most expensive? For U.S. stores of all sizes, the full months of November and December can account for as much as 30 percent of a retailer's annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation. This year is no different. NRF estimates that holiday sales will increase 3.7 percent to $630.5 billion, compared to last year's 4.1 percent growth. Another record predicted for this year? Customers will shop 'til they drop from the comfort of their mobile phones. The NRF predicts online sales will increase up to 8 percent to $105 billion this year.

Source: National Retail Federation, derived from Bureau of Labor Statistics data. NRF tallies retail industry sales from November and December - 61 days - to determine holiday sales.
Source: National Retail Federation, derived from Bureau of Labor Statistics data. NRF tallies retail industry sales from November and December - 61 days - to determine holiday sales.

Fewer people have expressed concern about the U.S. economy affecting their plans to fill their shopping carts this season. Only about 34 percent of people surveyed in NRF's report expressed concern. That marks a major reversal from 2009, when national holiday spending was just $503 billion as nearly two thirds of Americans felt the economy's pinch. 

Source: National Retail Federation, derived from Bureau of Labor Statistics data
Source: National Retail Federation, derived from Bureau of Labor Statistics data

Who gets the best gifts on your holiday list? NRF data show that most of your budget has always been spent on family members. On average this year, shoppers will spend $480.28 on gifts for their families. Friends have not been as lucky. For the past four years, shoppers have spent more money on candy and food to celebrate the holiday season than on gifts for their best buds.

Babysitters, the mailman and pets used to make out like bandits during the holiday season, but in 2011 these gift recipients lost out in favor of co-workers and decorations. Poor mailman: Delivering all these mail-order presents and getting so little in return!

Source: National Retail Federation, derived from Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Data for 'gifts for family' is not included in the chart above.
Source: National Retail Federation, derived from Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Data for 'gifts for family' is not included in the chart above.

With holiday sales expected to surpass $630 billion, let's look at what budgets U.S. shoppers have set. Data from WalletHub says it depends on where they live. Consider yourself lucky if you have an uncle in Palo Alto. In a city where the median household income is just over $120,000, and residents live a 15-minute car ride away from Apple headquarters, Palo Alto shoppers have an average holiday shopping budget of $2,886 per person. Shoppers in Texas cities like Sugar Land and Frisco are also spending the big bucks- both around $2,400 per person. Other cities might be full of scrooges. Chesapeake, Virginia and New Haven, Connecticut, for example, have above-average median household incomes, but their residents spend less than the $805.65 average when it comes to holiday shopping.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, WalletHub
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, WalletHub

This story by Bloomberg Brief originally ran as an interactive StoryChart, available here.

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