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Siena: New Yorkers not planning to boost their holiday spending

By Eric Reinhardt

Date:

Nearly six in 10 New York state consumers (59 percent) plan to spend about the same this year compared to 2013 on holiday gifts, 32 percent expect to reduce their spending, and only 7 percent intend to spend more.

That’s according to results of the annual statewide poll of holiday-spending plans that the Siena (College) Research Institute (SRI) released on Nov. 24.

“I think that what the poll is telling us is that … New Yorkers remain very guarded in their spending and I think that the indication is that we will see approximately the same level of spending as we did a year ago,” says Donald Levy, SRI director. 

Levy spoke with the Business Journal News Network the same day SRI issued the poll results.

“Consumers are telling us that they intend to [or] … would like to spend a little bit less than they did last year,” he adds.

Levy also notes the finding is “surprising” given that consumer sentiment is up from where it was a year ago, both nationally and in upstate New York, where “it’s trending slightly upward.”

In analyzing the survey data, Levy also believes that consumers are saying that even though the economy has “leveled off,” the “leveling off” is making shoppers feel they still need “to be careful.”

Nearly two-thirds of respondents are buying gifts for the same number of people and 58 percent are budgeting the same dollars per individual this year compared to last year, SRI said. 

Similar to 2013, 64 percent (61 percent last year) plan to hold their gift spending under $600, while 23 percent (25 percent last year) have budgeted $1,000 or more. 

By a two-to-one margin, respondents say, as much as they can, they will buy practical gifts more than splurging on impractical items. 

“They may very well buy significant-ticket items … [but] as best as they can, they’re going to focus on what they need as opposed to what they want,” says Levy.

And more than 80 percent plan to pay off their bills immediately instead of letting them extend well into 2015.

Plans to shop online increased “slightly” this year as 49 percent of New Yorkers intend to conduct at least 25 percent of their shopping online, up from 46 percent a year ago, according to the SRI data.

Nearly one-quarter of respondents aged 18 to 34 plan to do 75 to 100 percent of their shopping online, says Levy. 

“If I’m a brick and mortar retailer, I’m concerned that folks are going to come into my store, especially early [on in the shopping period] … do [their] window shopping, and see if [they] can buy it online less expensively,” he adds. 

The survey also found 58 percent of New York state consumers say that they are excited about the upcoming holiday season, which is down from 72 percent in 2013. 

It also found 41 percent are either not very or not at all excited.

Donations, winter weather
The survey also found 75 percent of all New Yorkers say that they will be making donations of money, food, or gifts to charitable organizations that focus on the needy during the holiday season.

“That’s a very strong level of charitable giving,” says Levy.

Even among those making less than $50,000, nearly two-thirds plan to donate, according to the data.

When asked to assess their feelings about winter, 60 percent of New Yorkers said that while “it may be cold, it is a special time of year” and that they look forward to winter activities and all the season provides, but 36 percent admit that they “dread it,” especially the cold and the darkness, according to SRI. 

The survey found 39 percent of New Yorkers predict more than average snow this year, 37 percent expect an average accumulation, while only 16 percent expect less than average snow.

Researchers conducted the survey prior to the recent record snowfall in Western New York, Levy noted.

The survey found 70 percent of all New Yorkers put up a Christmas tree for the holidays. Of that figure, 61 percent have an artificial rather than a real tree. 

In addition, a majority, 51 percent, most often use “Merry Christmas” as their holiday greeting rather than “Happy Holidays” (38 percent) or “Seasons’ Greetings” (6 percent).

The SRI conducted its survey of holiday-spending plans Nov. 3 through Nov. 17 by random telephone calls to 809 New York adults via landline and cell phones. 

The institute statistically adjusted the data by age, race/ethnicity, and gender to ensure representativeness. 

SRI said the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 points.        

Contact Reinhardt at ereinhardt@cnybj.com 

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