Nielsen: Shoppers will keep wallets close this holiday season

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. Consumers will seek value this holiday season and will continue to watch their dollars as confidence in the economy, while up slightly, remains below pre-recession levels, according to The Nielsen Co.

"Consumers are concerned about the jobless recovery and managing their personal finances. As a result, they are closely planning their spending and continue to reduce their shopping trips while placing more emphasis on value. Fewer shopping trips make every retail interaction critical this holiday season, and retailers need to turn this increased but restrained optimism into sales," stated James Russo, VP global consumer insights for Nielsen, who noted that value is not about price but the balance between price and benefits.

The Nielsen Co. predicted consumer holiday spending to closely reflect 2009 spending with flat dollar sales at roughly $89 billion, and flat to declining unit sales, down 0.15%.

More consumers plan to buy this season, with 36% saying they will spend less, compared with 42% in 2009. Driving the increases in spending will be lower-income consumers, with 6% of those households earning less than $20,000 planning to spend more, compared with 4% of higher-income households ($100,000-plus) planning to do so.

Among those consumers with incomes of $50,000 or less, dollar stores will be a key shopping destination for the holiday season -- whereas consumers earning $70,000, as well as those earning $100,000 or more, will drive online store visits, according to Nielsen. Consumers plan to spend less this year in mass merchandiser stores, while plans for spending in supercenters, club, grocery, toy, book and office supply stores remain flat.

So what's hot on the shopping list? Nielsen predicted a strong season for technology products and gift cards, with some possible upside surprises in such discretionary items as apparel, toys, video games, books and even vacations, especially among upper-income households ($100,000-plus).

Discretionary items, such as jewelry and DVDs, are forecasted to see a slight uptick, while spending on sporting goods, CDs, cookware and bed and bath items will be flat.

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