Is this the end of the recession? Gallup's latest poll for projected Christmas gift spending shows that U.S. consumers may be about to spend a little more money than they did last year. Some $743 on average, versus a measly $639 in 2008.
The Gallup/USA Today Poll was carried out between December 11 and December 13, so you could argue it's sampling people who are beginning to get into the Christmas spirit--and the fact that the data suggests the holiday sales "have the potential to show a modest increase of 1%" will certainly put some Christmas cheer in the heart of storeowners and economists.
But Gallup is careful to note that the whole picture is actually very complex. "The rebound in Americans' 2009 Christmas spending intentions is happening in an environment in which consumers' reported daily spending still trails last year's levels by a significant amount," the company points out. Which means that though people are planning to spend more on Christmas gifts this year than last (which was very much a 10-year low point) it might be that they're just switching their discretionary spending from other goods to Christmas stuff. In other words, Gallup says, it's hard to see the data as an indicator of an upswing in the economy.
Dryly economically correct, that may be--but the fact that people are choosing to spend their discretionary cash on Christmas, and with more dollars on average than last year, is actually a good sign. It's arguably a measure of how confident the consumer is, and the positivity here is definitely a good thing.
Combined with other data from IDC, this sheds even more of a positive light on the potential for economic improvement. IDC's recent data on PC sales shows that worldwide figures rose 2.3% for the last quarter, reversing an almost unprecedented sales slide that lasted the previous three quarters. Some of that is early holiday buying, of course, so it plays into the Gallup analysis somewhat. But PCs aren't a frivolous purchase, and the fact that people are feeling financially confident enough to buy them in increasing numbers is excellent.
And when you remember the recent Mint-sourced infographic  that depicted a high-spend Black Friday, things look even better. Perhaps the upswing really is about to happen. That's a nice Christmas present for everyone, all by itself.