A new survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) indicates that consumers plan to spend an average of $649 this holiday season – an increase of 2.6% percent from 2001 spending.
That prediction could bode well for freight demand in the fourth quarter – demand that rose steadily in the third quarter this year, according to several carriers.
However, the NRF 2002 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, did note that consumers appear to be taking a cautious approach to their holiday spending. According to the survey, 33% of respondents plan to spend less than last year. The majority of consumers surveyed – about 56% – plan to spend about the same as they did in 2001.
"We will be seeing a very cautious consumer this holiday season," said BIGresearch vp Phil Rist. "It is clear that consumers are willing to spend money, but it will ultimately be up to the retailer to give them a good reason to come out and shop."
NRF said its holiday outlook is slightly more optimistic. Taking into account the current economic indicators, impulse purchases and additional promotional activity, NRF predicts total holiday sales in November and December will increase 4% over last year's registered sales of $201 billion.
Those retail sales predictions may add to the current increase in freight demand being experienced by many trucking companies. Omaha, NE-based truckload carrier Werner Enterprises, for example, reported that beginning in mid-April of this year, its daily ratio of "loads available to trucks available" improved compared to 2001. This trend continued during the third quarter and through the first half of October this year, Werner said, adding that demand was strong in most geographic markets and in most freight markets.