’Tis the season for spending

Retailers hoping for a little more ka-ching in this year’s Christmas shopping season have been getting some good news. Consumers are expected to spend a little more than they did last year, but only a little bit more.

And many of them won’t leave their homes to do it, according to the 26th annual Deloitte Holiday Survey.

The Internet has become the spot to shop. Deloitte LLP, an international financial service and auditing company, polled 5,019 consumers and found 48 percent of them will buy their gifts in the Great Blue Nowhere rather than brick-and-mortar businesses. That 13-percent increase over last year’s online holiday shopping stats ties the Web with discount stores for the No. 1 Holiday Shopping Destination title.

Digital shopping was found to be popular with every age group. That means, said Alison Paul, Deloitte’s vice chairman, stores must have Web-site strategies “consistent with the in-store experience, regardless of the demographic they serve.”

So, lots of brick-and-mortar retailers will try to pull shoppers to their stores by appealing to those who Web browse. Social media sites will be used by 44 percent of consumers while shopping, Deloitte reported.

That doesn’t mean the stores we can see and touch won’t be trying to get shoppers at their cash registers whether they use their computers or smart phones or not.

LET’S MAKE A DEAL

Lots of deals and early Black Friday openings are being advertised by retailers who want their share of the $873 billion to $877 billion Deloitte has projected shoppers will spend through January.

Those numbers represent an increase of 2.5 to 3 percent over the bucks they shelled out last year, which is smaller than the 5.9-percent gain retailers saw in 2010 compared to their 2009 holiday haul.

Although the U.S. Commerce Department has reported consumer spending has been rising, shoppers told Deloitte they want good deals. Almost 40 percent said they expect the economy to get worse and 65 percent believe prices are higher than they were last year.

“Despite some relief from energy prices, consumers may feel the strain from food, apparel and other categories where prices are markedly higher compared to the previous holiday season,” said Deloitte’s chief economist, Carl Steidtmann.

Forty-two percent of the survey respondents said they will curb their holiday spending this year because of household expenses or high energy costs. Fifty-eight percent, however, expect to spend the same or more this year.

Keeping to what has become a four-year declining trend, each shopper is expected to buy 14.7 holiday gifts this year. Last year, they each bought 16.8, down from 2009’s 18.2.

Survey respondents who are in households that earn $100,000 or more a year expect to pay $812 on gifts. Those from households who earn under $100,000, however, are expected to cut their spending this year by 26 percent and pay $291 for their gifts.

Another 2011 wrinkle is that the gift card is no longer the No. 1 Christmas present. Although 45 percent said they would give out gift cards, which is more than last year’s 44 percent, 48 percent of the survey respondents said they would give clothing. Cash also slipped. Only a quarter of the respondents said they’d hand out dollars. That’s down 7 percent from last year.

the Early bird catches the deal

Retailers are offering big deals to bring in big crowds early.

Kmart not only is going to open early on Black Friday (5 a.m.), in some cities, the discounter will be open on Thanksgiving (6 a.m. to 9 p.m.), too. That’s not new. Kmart has been opening on Thanksgiving for 20 years.

The store is offering lots of discounts and specials on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. And, like many retailers big and small, Kmart is extending its hours, too.

To get its share of the shoppers who use the Internet to learn about specials, Kmart is putting its circulars for future weeks online at kmartlocalad.com.

Franklin Mills will open at midnight on Black Friday and will stay open until 10 p.m. Many stores at the mall are offering discounts of 20 to 30 percent through what managers are calling the Holiday Super Sales Weekend, Nov. 25 to 27.

Shoppers can visit www.franklinmills.com for holiday shopping hours, retailer giveaways and gift-with-purchase offers.

“We are very focused on giving shoppers exactly what they want, which we see as the more factor approach to shopping — more time to shop, more great brands for less and more immediate notification of special offers,” said Donna Danielson, director of marketing and business development at Franklin Mills.

Those immediate bargain notifications will come in the form of regular posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Although Black Friday is the day of the big push to bring in revenue, some retailers won’t see sales rise dramatically right away.

Jeff Belaggio, owner of Belaggio Jewelers, 2115 Cottman Ave., doesn’t expect a Black Friday surge.

SHINING MOMENTS

“Normally, we don’t,” he said. “Usually, it’s the last two weeks, last week and a half.”

Most of his customers then are men who are shopping for their wives or girlfriends, he said, as opposed to people looking for big electronics who are in the stores the day after Thanksgiving.

Big items this year are silver, not gold, he said. Also, silver nameplates are very popular with younger customers, but they need to be ordered two weeks in advance. Sales are strong, too, in men’s stainless steel jewelry.

To bring in customers, Belaggio said, he is offering 60-percent discounts on diamond jewelry right up to Christmas Eve.

When people aren’t shopping for gifts, they’re shopping to party.

Cookies traditionally are the big sellers every Christmas season, said Steve Schenk of Schenk’s Bakery, 7951Verree Road. So are miniature pastries, he said, adding both are big for Christmas parties.

But, for the past few years, customers have been coming in for “differently shaped” cakes, the baker said.

With the popularity of cable TV shows Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss, Schenk said more and more people are requesting some of the icing monuments they see on TV.

“It seems nobody wants a sheet cake anymore,” he said, adding that orders for custom-made cakes have quadrupled from a couple a week to eight. 

Some of the requests take some work and a lot of designing, so he asks for orders to be placed seven to 10 days in advance. 

“It’s almost like you have to be an engineer nowadays,” he said. •• 

Reporter John Loftus can be reached at 215-354-3110 or jloftus@bsmphilly.com