Families seen spending less on gifts

November 29, 1990|By Los Angeles Times

In a fresh sign of the American consumer's miserly mood, a leading research group reported yesterday that the typical U.S. family plans to spend about $325 on gifts this Christmas, $10 less than a year ago.

The decline in holiday spending projected by the Conference Board was the first since the New York-based business research organization began polling consumers this way in 1987. It also came amid new indications of weakness in the retailing industry.

The Conference Board report was based on a consumer confidence survey conducted in the first two weeks of November of 5,000 families across the country. Fabian Linden, executive director of the Conference Board's consumer research center, hedged the findings by suggesting that confidence could rebound in the weeks before Christmas.

When Christmas nears, Linden said, "there's a certain emotional electricity that gets excited, and it might offset the dreariness" and spur buying by shoppers. At the same time, he said, the survey's projections have been within roughly a percentage point of the actual results over the past three years.

Last year, the Conference Board projected a gain of roughly 4.5 percent in holiday spending, and the gain actually turned out to be 4.7 percent, Linden said.

In the West, the Conference Board survey found that families are planning to spend $315 on Christmas gifts, the same as last year. Everywhere else, however, families said they expect to spend less.

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