SAGE Advice: Dreaming of a Green Christmas

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By: Leo J. Shapiro, Erik Shapiro and Steve Yahn

October expectations for Christmas spending reached the highest level for that month in six years — read: pre-September 11, 2001 — according to our Leo J. Shapiro & Associates national poll of consumers.

In October, 23% of consumers said they plan to spend more this holiday season, up from 20% in September and 18% in August.

And it is not just Christmas spending that is up. In sharp contrast to last October, when consumables spending stood at an all-time low and shopping was down for new houses and many categories of major goods, this October there are across-the-board boosts in spending for all categories of consumables and major goods that we track. Even house hunters are defying bubble-bursting prophecies to boost house hunting numbers to the highest levels since last spring.

Inflation fears are buried in an avalanche of good cheer. More consumers (28%) than in any month in nearly five years say prices have declined.

Fears of losing a job stand at the lowest level (33%) in nearly six years and expectations of increased income in the next year increased to the highest level (48%) in nearly five years.

BOTTOM LINE

As always, we must caution that things can go sour just as fast as they got sweet. Retailers and their newspaper partners must prepare themselves to either enjoy a green Christmas or survive a blue Christmas. To steal some lines from the theologian Renan:

?We must therefore arrange ourselves so that on neither hypothesis we shall be completely wrong. We must listen to the superior voices, but in such a way that if the second hypothesis were true we should not have been completely duped.?

These October numbers are so hopeful that a betting seller of newspaper ad space would do well to tool up and count on enjoying a green Christmas. One way to hedge bets would be to push sales of discounted gift cards now, while the sun shines, so that the money is already spent in case of rain.

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