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Survey forecasts less holiday spending

U.S. households are expected to spend an average of $390 on Christmas gifts this holiday season, down from last year’s estimate of $418, The Conference Board reports.

The survey found that consumers in the East South Central plans to spend the national average, $390.

Only 26 percent of all U.S. households intend to spend $500 or more on Christmas gifts, down slightly from 27 percent last year. Among other households, 35 percent plan to spend $200-$500, down from 37 percent last year, and 39 percent are planning to spend less than $200, up from 35 percent in 2008.

Consumers will also approach online holiday shopping very cautiously, holding off on big-ticket items and holding out for major incentives like free shipping and discounts, according to The Consumer Internet Barometer. The Consumer Internet Barometer surveys 10,000 households across the country and tracks who is doing what on the Internet.

Budget-friendly items appear at the top of consumers’ online holiday shopping lists. The top categories include books, apparel/footwear, toys/games and movies/DVDs. The most preferred shopping sites are those operated by online retailers such as Amazon.com. Retail stores and catalog operators such as Walmart.com or BestBuy.com are a close second.

About 90 percent of online consumers cite free shipping as a major incentive. More than two out of three said special deals and offers not available in stores as well as coupons and discounts would encourage them to spend more.

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