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Americans are planning big spending this holiday season, but are wary of inflation and supply problems.

Shoppers at the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, PA, Saturday, December 4, 2021.

Hannah Bayer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Americans are planning to enjoy this holiday season despite concerns about the economy and inflation, and fears that supply problems could delay the delivery of their gifts.

CNBC’s All-American Economic Survey shows that people on average plan to spend $ 1004 on gifts, up 13% from last year during the depression pandemic and the highest since 2018. A poll of 800 adults nationwide showed 15% plan to spend more this year, up from 11% in 2020, and 35% plan to spend less, up from 39%.

“I think it’s going to be a good Christmas,” said Jay Campbell, partner at Hart Research Associates, a Democratic sociologist who participated in the survey. “People will spend, and consumers will be willing, enthusiastic, and for the most part able to leave their homes and return to stores to spend those dollars.”

However, the study clearly shows that current supply chain problems, inflation, and an overall negative attitude towards the economy are driving consumers into a Christmas mood. Among those who spend more, a third say it is because they have more money, a quarter say it is because they have more people to buy gifts for, and 16% say higher prices.

Among those spending less, 25% say it’s because the economy is in bad shape, 21% cite higher prices or trouble paying bills, and 17% want to save. Meanwhile, 36% say they started shopping earlier than usual because they were afraid they might not receive their gifts on time, and 25% fear that gifts might arrive late.

“I would say the holiday spending figures in this survey are relatively stable,” said Mika Roberts, a partner with Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican sociologist who participated in the survey. “But that doesn’t relieve Americans of the stressors of the cost of living.”

Biggest concern right now: inflation

The study found that inflation outstripped Covid and became the main problem in the country. In the last quarter, the two questions were linked. Meanwhile, 41% of the population believes that the economy will deteriorate next year, which is a modest improvement over the previous quarter, but still a largely pessimistic number and 7 points higher than a year ago.

The poll found that half of Americans say they will do most or all of their online purchases, five points less than in 2020 but still five points higher than before the pandemic. This may be the first indication that the pandemic may continue. Amazon continues to be the runaway online leader, with 35% of Americans claiming this is their # 1 internet destination. Etsy and other local business sites came in second with 7%, followed by Walmart with 5%.

One of the advantages of brick-and-mortar stores this Christmas is that people are less afraid to go out compared to last year. The poll, which was conducted from December 1 to 4 after news of the omicron variant became known, found a sharp decline in concerns about visiting shopping malls, boarding planes and visiting major American cities. A year ago, 60% of the population said they were worried about concerts, theme parks or sports events. Now this percentage has dropped to 34%.

Least of all when it comes to Covid: visiting small businesses outside of shopping malls.

While 23% say they are concerned about shopping malls due to Covid, up from 36% a year ago, only 11% express concern when it comes to small stores outside of malls, up from 17%.


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