According to the National Retail Federation’s 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, holiday shoppers say they plan to shell out an average of $704.18 on holiday gifts and seasonal merchandise, down slightly from last year’s $718.98.

Additionally, nearly six in 10 holiday shoppers (59.9%) say they plan to take advantage of retailers’ sales and discounts to make additional non-gift purchases for themselves and their families during the holiday season. The average person will spend approximately $130.43 during the holiday season to take advantage of sales and discounts on apparel, electronics, home goods and other items for themselves or a family member, up from $112.20 last year.

“Shoppers are going to have a hard time passing up those items that they really want, like a new coffee pot or a phone, something for the house they need” said NRF spokesperson Kathy Grannis.

“Knowing their customers are more focused than ever on value, retailers will entice shoppers with promotions that go beyond discounts, whether they’re promoting free gifts with purchase, an extended warranty, or stellar customer service.”

According to the survey, the largest portion of a consumer’s holiday budget will go toward gifts for family members, with the average person expected to shell out $403.26 on kids, parents and other family members. Friends, co-workers and even the family pet can expect something nice this year as well; holiday celebrants will spend an average of $68.23 on friends, $21.06 on co-workers, and $23.39 on other gifts. Consumers will also spend on decorations ($46.73), greeting cards ($26.52), candy and food ($96.75), and flowers ($18.23.)

With wish lists in hand and a set budget in mind, people this year plan to shop around with a variety of retailers for holiday gifts and merchandise. Department stores, with unique private-label offerings, will see an increase in traffic over last year (56.9% vs. 54.5% last year), as will clothing or accessory stores (35.2% vs. 33.6% in 2010), drug stores (21.1% vs. 18.9% last year), and grocery stores and supermarkets (48.8% vs. 46.7% last year), and most will head to discount stores (66.1% vs. 65.1%.) Crafts and fabric stores will benefit from those looking to make personal and thoughtful gifts (17.5% vs. 16.1% in 2010).

For recipients, gifts small and large are expected to make big impressions this year. For the fifth year in a row – and at the highest level in the survey’s history – 57.7 percent of shoppers say they’d like to receive a gift card this holiday season. Other items on consumers’ wish lists include clothing or clothing accessories (50.0%), consumer electronics or computer-related accessories (35.4%), jewelry (22.8%), and personal care items (19.3%).

As the internet quickly becomes a destination for time-strapped shoppers, more people will seek out retailers’ holiday deals on the Internet this year; nearly half (46.7%) will buy online, up from 43.9 percent last year. Additionally, the average holiday shopper plans to do 36.0 percent of their shopping online – whether they’re comparing prices, researching products, or actually making a purchase. Online shoppers plan to spend more as well – the average holiday online shopper will spend about 22 percent more than the average adult.Adults aged 25-34, many of whom have small children and crave convenience, will complete 43.7 percent of their holiday shopping online, the most of any age group.

“Consumers are more tech-savvy than ever, using their smartphones, I-pads and other mobile devices to comparison shop and purchase items.”

According to the survey, half (52.6%) of those who own a smartphone said they will use their device to research products, redeem coupons, use apps to assist in their purchase, and purchase holiday gifts and items. Specifically, nearly one-third (31.0%) say they will research products and/or compare prices, 14.1 percent will purchase products, 17.3 percent will redeem coupons and 15.6 percent will use apps to research or purchase items. One-quarter (25.1%) of smartphone owners will use their phone to look up a retailer’s information such as store hours and location.

Tablet owners are even more likely to use their device to aid in their holiday shopping – seven in 10 (70.5%) tablet owners will research and shop using their device. According to the survey, half (50.8%) of those with tablets will research products and/or compare prices, and more than one-third (34.8%) will actually make a purchase with their device. Tablet owners will also redeem coupons (21.5%), look up retailer information (33.8%) and use apps to research items or purchase products (21.0%).

When it comes to mobile shopping, young adults present the biggest opportunity for retailers. According to the survey, Americans aged 18-24 are the most likely to use their smartphones (72.2%) and tablets (86.4%) to shop for holiday items this year. Men are also considerably more likely than women to use their smartphone and tablet device to shop for gifts. Two in 10 men (17.6%) and just 10.8 percent of women who own smartphones plan to purchase products, and four in 10 (38.5%) men with tablets and 31.3 percent of women with tablets will make purchases this holiday season.

Each year, nearly 40 percent of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween, and this year is no different with 38.9 percent of celebrants having already begun or planning to begin holiday shopping before October 31. Another 40.0 percent will begin shopping in November, 17.0 will hit the stores the first two weeks in December and 4.1 percent will procrastinate until the final two weeks of December.

According to the survey, 62.2 percent of Americans say the U.S. economy will affect their holiday spending plans. To compensate, consumers are expected to comparison shop to save a few dollars. The survey found 5.7 percent said they would comparative shop using their mobile device more often, up from 3.7 percent in 2010, and nearly one-third (32.1%) will comparative shop online more often, up from 30.9 percent last year.

“Nearly two-thirds of consumers say the economy will somehow have an impact on their holiday spending this year, and that’s no surprise, shoppers are holding onto their money” said Grannis.

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