Uncertainty clouds holiday shopping for consumers as inflation takes a toll

American households are taking on more debt as interest rates rise, a sign of consumer strain

In no case do families save on the holidays.

But amid rising prices and fears of a recession, holiday shoppers are feeling less generous this season.

Many consumers are planning to make fewer purchases – and at a reduced price, according to a recent Deloitte retail report.

Still, households will spend an average of $1,455 on Christmas gifts, unchanged from last year, according to the report.

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While some consumers may spend as much or more on their holiday shopping as they did in 2021, this is largely due to higher prices, as other reports also show.

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“Inflation is by far the biggest concern facing households this year,” said Tim Quinlan, senior economist at Wells Fargo and author of Wells Fargo’s 2022 Holiday Sales Report.

Household finances have taken a hit with a lower savings rate and falling real wages, which could slow holiday sales in the coming months, Quinlan said in the report.

“The bottom line is that inflation is still a problem, the dollar isn’t stretching that far and most consumers will still be looking for bargains.”

The dollars aren’t stretching that far and most consumers will still be looking for bargains.

Tim Quinlan

Senior Economist at Wells Fargo

A separate report from BlackFriday.com found that 70% of shoppers will be factoring in inflation when shopping this holiday season, and even more will be scouting for deals.

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Nearly 33% of shoppers also plan to buy fewer gifts this year, while about a quarter said they would opt for cheaper versions or more practical gifts like fuel cards, according to TransUnion’s Christmas Shopping Survey.

“People try to save and make the most of what they have,” he said Cecilia Seiden, Vice President of TransUnion’s Retail Operations.

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“Remember not to get into debt for Christmas shopping,” warned Natalia Brown, chief client operations officer at National Debt Relief. “Debt prevents people from achieving their financial goals — like building an emergency fund, buying a home, and saving for retirement.”

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Holiday spending could come with higher costs if it means racking up additional credit card debt while the Federal Reserve hikes interest rates to curb inflation, Quinlan added.

APRs are currently averaging nearly 18%, but could be closer to 19% by the end of the year, which would be an all-time high, according to Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com.

This will make consumers worse off by 2023, Quinlan said. “In many ways, we’re looking at this year’s holiday shopping season as the last hurrah.”

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