Even with inflation still hanging around, a survey of Denver-area holiday shoppers shows they “plan to spend like it’s 2019 again.”
A survey by Deloitte found that Denver shoppers expect to spend an average of $1,902 this holiday season, which is up 15% from 2022 and 15% higher than this year’s national average.
Rachel Smeak, the Denver-based managing director of Deloitte Consulting, said shoppers’ anticipated spending is returning to pre-pandemic levels.
“What was a bit surprising is that consumers plan to spend like it’s 2019 again,” Smeak added.
Nationwide, people reported planning to spend an average of $1,652 on gifts this year, surpassing pre-pandemic figures for the first time, according to Deloitte’s survey.
The National Retail Federation is also predicting a robust holiday shopping season. The survey by the organization and Prosper Insights and Analytics estimates that 182 million people plan to shop in stores and online. The number is up 15.7 million from last year and the business association’s highest estimate since it began tracking the data in 2017.
In the Denver area, some of the spending will be on holiday decorations and clothing rather than gifts, with 80% of the respondents planning to make those purchases.
Consumer spending has been charging along despite inflation and speculation about whether the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate increases to bring down prices will cause a recession. The Wall Street Journal reported that Americans spent 0.01% less in October, but economists had expected a larger decrease.
However, inflation has somewhat tempered spending plans, Smeak said. About 74% of Denver-area shoppers are budgeting for fewer gifts, from 10 in 2022 to nine this year.
And 41% of the Denver-area respondents who have student loans said they’ll cut back on holiday spending this year.
“We’re seeing a lot of folks being very focused on promotional events, particularly on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which is pretty consistent with last year,” Smeak said.
Deloitte’s national survey found that people plan to spend an average of $567 during Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping events, a 13% jump from 2022.
In Denver, retailers are also looking at Small Business Saturday this weekend to help launch their holiday season. The event was founded by American Express in 2010 and has been cosponsored by the Small Business Administration since 2011.
Entrepreneurs in the River North Art District are planning events and encouraging shoppers to go local when looking for gifts and ideas for the holidays.
“We really consider ourselves to be one of the premier locations for small businesses and those more creative maker spaces as well,” said Charity Von Guinness, executive director of the RiNo Art District.
Von Guinness said RiNo businesses like Green Spaces Market and Empire Collective, are cooperative marketplaces that offer shoppers opportunities to patronize local artists and makers.
“We’re just encouraging everyone in Denver to be buying more local and just really enjoying the district,” Von Guinness said. “On top of all of these great cooperatives spaces, where you can go around to so many different vendors and retailers, are small food and beverage locations.”
Kimberlee Ward is one of the business people in Green Spaces. She founded her company, Eternal Balance Candle Co., in 2019. She’s offering people 35% discounts on Small Business Saturday to encourage people to not just shop via keyboard.
“Being able to come in and smell the candles really gives you the ability to choose something special for the people in your life. I get multiple people that come in and say, ‘This reminds me of my mom’s house or my grandma’s house,’ ” Ward said.
Divine Ramazani, the creative director at Green Spaces, said the market and the different vendors plan promotions for Small Business Saturday.
A holiday market is planned Dec. 9 in the art district. More than 20 vendors and artists will be featured at “It’s a RiNo-Ful Life!” at 29th and Larimer streets.
Online holiday shopping and e-commerce in general exploded during the coronavirus pandemic when stores closed or limited the number of customers. Deloitte’s Denver survey, which had responses from 401 residents, said shoppers planned to do 66% of their buying online, compared to 63% nationally.
“That’s pretty high participation in the online shopping arena. But that’s very consistent with where we’ve been and is kind of leveling off instead of that continuous increase that we have been seeing for several years,” Smeak said.
Ramazani would like to see more people venture out to Denver’s small-business districts this holiday season. “I definitely understand the convenience of online shopping. It does make our life easier.”
But walking into a store and talking to the business people and other customers is part of what makes communities stronger, Ramazani said. “I feel like that adds to the story and the product. I feel like it gives you more of a connection to what you’re buying.”
Updated at 11:38 a.m. Nov. 22 to add data on holiday spending.