U.S. households are expected to spend an average of $418 on gifts during the holiday season, down from last year’s estimate of $471, The Conference Board reported Friday.

The survey of Christmas gift spending intentions covers a nationally representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households. It was conducted for The Conference Board in November by TNS, the world’s largest custom research company.
“Consumers are in a cost conscious mood heading into the holiday season and they intend to spend less this year than last year on gifts,” says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “This is shaping up to be one of the most challenging holiday seasons in years and it’s going to take more than the usual discounts and incentives from retailers to get  consumers to spend more freely.”
The top Christmas spenders will be East North Central households (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin) who intend to spend an average of $550. Lowest Christmas spending will be in the West South Central region (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas) where consumers intend to spend an average of $330 on Christmas gifts.
Only 27% of all households intend to spend $500 or more on Christmas gifts, down from 33% from last year. Thirty-seven percent plan to spend $200-$500, and 35% are planning to spend less than $200.

This year, 39% of all consumers will buy Christmas gifts on the Internet. Books top the list of online Christmas buying, with 38% saying they will buy books as gifts. Toys and games came in second with 36% of consumers intending to purchase these gifts online. Apparel and footwear rank third as online Christmas buying choices, followed by movie videos and DVDs.
Of the 41% who said they purchased Christmas gifts last year on the Internet, 94% said they were satisfied with their online buying experience.

Other key findings in The Conference Board survey:

  • Households headed by individuals 65 and over intend to spend the most this season, with a $469 average spending budget.
  • Households headed by those aged 35-44 intend to spend $419 on gifts.
  • Households whose incomes top $50,000 intend to spend $551 for Christmas gifts.