Holiday Spending Rose Slightly, As Expected

Last week, I posted a few polls to see how readers were spending this holiday season. With 10% unemployment, but better economic expectations for the year ahead than in 2008, how much consumers would spend this holiday season was shaping up to be quite a mystery. Well, the numbers are in and the data shows that spending increased ever-so-slightly in 2009 over 2008. That confirms the thesis that spending would be better this year than last year, but not as strong as in 2007. Is that what our polls found?

First, according to an Associated Press article:

Retail sales rose 3.6 percent from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24, compared with a 2.3 percent drop in the year-ago period, according to figures from MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse, which track all forms of payment, including cash.

Adjusting for an extra shopping day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the number was closer to a 1 percent gain.

A 1% gain isn't much, but at least it isn't a decline. So how do those numbers compare to what our readers said? It's a little hard to gauge, because our polls weren't exactly scientific, but let's check it out.

I want to keep the polls open a little longer to increase the population size, so if you've already voted and just want to see the results, then click "View Results" below.

Here's the first, asking how much readers spent:

Here's the second, asking how much they actually got:

Looking at the results at this time, the highest portion, around one-third of voters in each poll, said that they got or spent less this year than last year, which was less than in 2007. That appears to contradict the sales data. Of course, it's important to remember that the other two-thirds of respondents consequently got/spent more than or the same as last year or prior years. So maybe that adds up to a slight increase this year in spending, but still less than in 2007. Again, this isn't scientific, but the logic is plausible.

Also interesting is that the holiday storm that hit northeast the weekend before Christmas probably didn't have much effect. As I expected. AP also reports:

A major winter storm that slammed the Northeast and shut in shoppers on the Saturday before Christmas derailed sales. But consumers appeared to have made up for the loss by shopping in advance of the storm and the days leading up to Christmas.

Of course, it's impossible to know how much impulse shopping was lost, but as 81% of respondents in another poll we conducted about the winter storm show, few consumers let the storms stop them from ultimately buying what they planned to for the holidays.