Shoppers at the King of Prussia shopping mall in King of Preussen, Pennsylvania on Saturday, December 4, 2021.
Hannah Beier | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Americans plan to spend this Christmas season with enthusiasm, despite concerns about the economy and inflation, and fear that supply shortages could delay the arrival of their gifts.
The CNBC All-America Economic Survey finds that, on average, individuals plan to spend $ 1,004 on gifts, 13% more than the number of people suffering from pandemic depression last year and the highest number since 2018. The survey of 800 adults across the country found 15% plan to spend more this year, up from 11% in 2020, and 35% plan to spend less, up from 39%.
“I think it’s going to be a wonderful Christmas,” said Jay Campbell, partner at Hart Research Associates, the Democratic pollster for the poll. “People are going to spend money and consumers are ready, eager, and mostly able to go out of their homes and back to stores to spend those dollars.”
However, the survey clearly shows that the current issues of supply chain problems, inflation and overall negative economic assessments are creeping into the Christmas mood of consumers. Of those who spend more, a third say they have more money, a quarter say they have more people to buy gifts for, and 16% cite higher prices.
Of those who spend less, 25% say it is due to the poor state of the economy, 21% cite higher prices or problems paying bills, and 17% want to save money. 36% said they started shopping earlier than normal because they feared they would not receive their gifts on time, and 25% fear that the gifts might be late.
“I’d say the vacation spending numbers on this poll are relatively solid,” said Micah Roberts, partner at Public Opinion Strategies, the Republican pollsters for the poll. “But it doesn’t remove the cost of living stressors Americans experience.”
Biggest concern right now: inflation
The poll found inflation catapulted before Covid and has become the country’s main problem. In the last quarter, the two problems were tied. Meanwhile, 41% of the public believe the economy will deteriorate over the next year, a slight improvement from last quarter but still a largely pessimistic number and up 7 points from a year earlier.
The survey found that half of Americans say they do most or all of their purchases online, a five point decrease from 2020 but still five points above pre-pandemic levels. This could be a first indication that part of the pandemic upsurge in online shopping may continue. Amazon continues to be the leading online marketplace with 35% of Americans saying it is their # 1 online destination. In second place was Etsy and other local business websites with just 7%, followed by Walmart’s website with just 5%.
One advantage brick-and-mortar retailers could have at Christmas: Compared to last year, people are less afraid of going out in public. The poll, conducted December 1-4 after news broke of the Omicron variant, found a sharp drop in concerns about going to shopping malls, boarding planes, and visiting major American cities. A year ago, 60% of the population said they were worried about going to concerts, theme parks or sporting events. This proportion has now dropped to just 34%.
Least of all worries when it comes to Covid: Visiting small businesses, not shopping malls.
While 23% said they were worried about going to malls because of Covid, up from 36% a year ago, only 11% said they were concerned about small stores that are not in malls, up from 17%.