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CE High On Consumers’ Minds This Holiday Season

WASHINGTON – A pair of recent studies, by the National Retail Foundation (NRF) and Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), suggest that electronics devices could be the darlings of the holiday selling season.

A recent NRF poll found that more than one-third (36.1 percent) of consumers would like to receive a CE gift for the holidays, ranking just third behind gift cards (59.4 percent) – the top choice for the seventh consecutive year – and clothing and accessories (51.2 percent).

Similarly, CEA said consumers’ inclination to buy technology products hit a six-year high last month, as determined by its Index of Consumer Technology Expectations (ICTE), which measures consumer expectations about tech spending. The index jumped 9.5 points in October to 90.2, a level last reached in 2007.

“Consumer interest in tech has moved up decidedly heading into the holiday season,” observed Shawn Du- Bravac, CEA’s chief economist and senior research director, citing new product introductions and early retail promotions and advertising.

But all is not rosy in retail land. The NRF survey also showed that consumers are cutting back their holiday spending from last year, with projected seasonal expenditures down 2 percent to an average of $737.95 per shopper.

“We expect consumers to set a modest budget for gifts and other holiday related purchases as they wait and see what will become of the U.S. economy in the coming months,” said NRF president/ CEO Matthew Shay.

The findings jibe with the pre-holiday observations of eBay, which were shared during a third-quarter earnings call. “In a relatively short period of time we have seen a pretty rapid deceleration in the market,” chief financial officer Bob Swan told investors last month. “I hope I’m too conservative, but right now the signs point to a bit of caution.”

Likewise, The NPD Group expects that holiday spending levels will remain largely unchanged from 2012, with more than two-thirds of consumers, or 67 percent, planning to spend about the same as last year.

“Consumers tell us they want to shop more,” said NPD’s chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen, “but without the ‘it’ item and a lack of pent-up demand, this could be the Christmas of Contradictions.”

His advice to retailers: “Develop creative ways to lure shoppers into the stores.”