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Cautious Consumers Trim Holiday Budgets [AUDIO]

The debate over the government shutdown may be over, but it’s left many consumers confused and uncertain about stability of the government and the economy.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

That, in turn, will result in many people taking a more conservative approach when it comes to spending on holiday gifts this year.

A recent survey by the National Retail Federation finds that the average holiday shopper will spend about $735 on gifts this year, which is down about two percent from last year.

“Consumers are cautiously optimistic and they will still find ways to spend on gifts, but they are going to be more cautious when it comes to their budgets,” said Kathy Grannis, spokesperson for the National Retail Federation.

“We expect to see spending on electronics and apparel grow this year, but overall the approach to gift-buying by consumers will be practicality. The average person is going to find the perfect gift at the perfect price, but will also consider other personal options. Maybe they’ll make a scarf instead of buying it or maybe they’ll be making a homemade calendar instead of buying it.”

Grannis said, though, at the end of the day, that retailers will see solid growth during the holiday season.

“We’re still forecasting sales to increase 3.9 percent, slightly better than the 3.5 percent we saw last year,” said Grannis. “Large and small retailers do recognize that the consumer is challenged, but they also know that there is some strength there and provided the right price and the right value options, people will be spending. Smart retailers will look for ways to attract them with price and value.”

According to the survey, four in 10 Americans began holiday shopping before Halloween. Specifically, 12.4 percent started before September, 8.2 percent began in September and 20.6 percent began in October.

More than one-third began this month and 16 percent plan to start shopping in the first two weeks of December. Almost four percent will wait until the last minute and shop the last two weeks of the month. When asked why they shop early, six in 10 admitted that they do so to spread out their shopping budget while 46.5 percent shop early to avoid the crowds associated with November and December.

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