How much will Charlotteans spend on Christmas this year?

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Charlotte is gearing up for holiday shopping season. The big question: How strong will it be?

The people running Charlotte’s winter markets are saying the early indications are good. But the national picture is a lot more uncertain.

The average Charlotte family is likely to spend about $629 on holiday presents this year, according to a new national forecast from WalletHub. They base their figures on a combination of federal data: average income, expenditures, debt, etc. Here are Charlotte’s stats for an “average” household:

  • Monthly Income: $4,493
  • Monthly Expenses: $3,536
  • Savings: $6,104
  • Age: 34.3
  • Debt-to-Income Ratio: 46.4%
  • Monthly Income-to-Monthly Expenses Ratio: 1.27
  • Savings-to-Monthly Expenses Ratio: 1.73

That expected holiday spend is less than last year. A lot less.

Last year, WalletHub gave Charlotte a figure of $966 expected holiday spend. What changed? A few things. Income ticked down slightly. Expenses ticked up. But the average debt to income ratio jumped from 29 percent. Charlotte is growing more indebted by the year. The influx of recent college graduates flush with student loans probably doesn’t help that.

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It’s still more than most areas of the state.

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The U.S. as a whole is expecting to spend a bit less, too.

Nationally, Americans are expecting to spend an average of $785 on Christmas gifts this year, according to a Gallup survey done last month. That’s a slight dip from the $815 reported the year before, but roughly in line with what the survey has found for the last three years. Most people — about 63 percent — said they’d spend roughly the same amount as the year before. Twenty-one percent of people said they’d spend less.

A survey from the National Retail Federation was about the same. Their figures put the anticipated spend at $935.58 per household, though that includes the expectation that people spend $139.61 on themselves. If you back that out, the numbers are pretty much the same. Their figures are down slightly from the record-breaking $952.58 average spend expected last year.

The retailers group thinks collective holiday spending should still increase 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion.

John Connaughton, an economist and professor at UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business, said that one of the key indicators of holiday spending is consumer confidence. That mark has been trending down over the past few months, but that could be skewed by the recent election. New numbers won’t come out until the end of November.

“I don’t really know what’s going to happen as a result of this election,” he said. “That really is the big deal.”

Most likely, Connaughton said, holiday spending would continue the trend of positive but uninspiring results since the Great Recession. “The Christmases have been nothing stellar, but not bad,” he said.

He said North Carolina and Charlotte will likely fall in line with national trends.

The Southern Christmas Show is doing well, though.

But any decrease in spending does not appear to be evident at Charlotte’s annual Southern Christmas Show, underway now at The Park Expo & Conference Center.

David Zimmerman, president of Southern Shows, said that he’s hearing reports that sales are up this year, and that exhibitors are restocking inventory a little earlier than usual.

“In general, it’s going pretty well,” Zimmerman said, adding that attendance is in line with previous years and there was an even longer wait list for exhibitors than normal. “The folks are continuing to come. It seems to be a good trend, for sure. … Typically if things are not going well, the exhibitors will let us know.”

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Andrew Dunn
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