I was on the phone the other day, on hold and deep in "MuzakLand," when a holiday song came on. That same night, I ran to the store for a few items and was surprised to see cardboard snowflakes and Santas festooned from the ceilings. Is it my imagination, or is the holiday season starting earlier every year?Personally, I don't really mind, because I'm a fan of the winter holidays, but I can definitely see how this trend would be disconcerting to those who scorn the commercialization of Christmas (and Thanksgiving and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, etc., for that matter). Especially now, with the employment rate as high as it is and people's purse strings drawn as tightly as they are.
But maybe we're not as bad off as I thought we were. A survey by Zoomerang [PDF] released earlier this week paints a rosier picture than I imagined. According to the data, consumers will be spending just as much as, if not more than, they did at this time last year. The catch: They'll be spending their money on different kinds of things. That is, wish lists will consist of fewer "luxury" items and more "essentials."
There's a contradiction at the core of this study: Of the 340 SMB retailers surveyed, 157 (46%) are not feeling confident about the economy. Yet they expect a decent turnout for the holidays. Among respondents, 43% expect to do about the same amount of business as they did in 2009; 33% expect to do better. And more than 25% plan to ramp up for the shopping season by increasing inventory, hours, customer service, marketing, and/or social media budgets.
As for consumers, more than half of the 2,000-plus surveyed said they'll maintain (52%) or increase (10%) spending this year as compared to 2009. That, despite the fact only 9% are feeling confident about the economy, while 47% are not.
Three-quarters of consumer respondents said they're going to be spending most of their hard-earned cash on "essentials," vs. "luxury" items, but I find it interesting (and a testament to how spoiled we are) that two of the categories under the "essentials" column are books/music/DVDs/games and electronics/appliances. Items found at the bottom of our wish lists this year include pet products, toys, and children's specialty.
Looks as if Fido might have to go without his gem-studded collar this winter.