| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Oct 18 Scrooge-like spending patterns
for the holidays appear to be a thing of the past for wealthy
Americans, who are preparing to open their wallets this year
after sitting on piles of cash.
The richest Americans, those in the top 10 percent, or with
more than $100,000 in discretionary income, are predicted to
spend more this holiday season than the remaining 90 percent of
the country's population, according to a quarterly survey by
American Express released on Thursday.
While most Americans will spend less on gifts this year, the
top 10 percent raise their gift spending by 21.9 percent, to
$19.2 billion, up from $15.7 billion in 2011. That compares with
a projected drop in overall gift spending of 3.4 percent, to
$66.3 billion, from $66.6 billion last year, according to the
American Express 2012 Survey of Affluence and Wealth in America.
The spending by the wealthiest 10 percent will account for
29 percent of total spending on gifts.
The rise is explained by the fact that wealthy Americans are
sitting on huge piles of savings, said Jim Taylor, vice chairman
of the Harrison Group, which conducted the study. Top earners
are saving at a high rate - 61 percent of those in the top 1
percent are saving at least 25 percent of their income yearly.
But for Americans outside the top 10 percent, only 14 percent
are able to save at such an aggressive rate.
"If the floodgates open, it will lead to a capital boom,"
The moneyed will also spend differently - shelling out for
high-end luxury items, shunning gift cards and spending quite a
bit on themselves, American Express said.
The study, conducted in September, surveyed 832 people with
household incomes of more than $138,000 and discretionary income
There are other signs, however, that Americans overall are
starting to spend more. While the American Express study only
surveyed gift spending, an annual forecast by the National
Retail Federation's forecast that looked more broadly at holiday
spending - including decorations, greeting cards, holiday foods,
flowers and other items, as well as gifts - saw a rise of 1.2
percent, to $749.51 per consumer, up from $740.57 last year.
YOU CAN'T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT
The richest 10 percent may have more money, but in at least
one way they are just like other Americans: they want gift
cards. Some 60 percent of Americans desire gift cards, according
to the NRF. However, the spouses or partners of the wealthy are
not planning on getting them what they want, according to
Of the 34 percent of women who want a gift card to a
specific retailer, only 11 percent of their spouses or partners
plan on giving that as a gift. For the 18 percent of men who
want a gift certificate to a restaurant, only 5 percent of their
partners are likely to be wrapping that up.
"Nobody is going to give somebody a gift card for $5,000
rather than getting them that new bracelet. It's not quite the
same emotional impact," said Craig Johnson, president of
Customer Growth Partners, a New Canaan, Connecticut-based
company that analyzes retail trends.
Because of the disparity between what respondents want and
what they're likely to get, the richest Americans plan to do a
lot of shopping for themselves for the holidays - 46 percent of
women in the wealthiest 10 percent say they will buy for
themselves, and 27 percent of men, said the Harrison Group's
Clothing, accessories and jewelry are among the top items
women will be buying for themselves. Men will snap up clothing,
fine liquor and gourmet foods.
(Reporting by Beth Pinsker Gladstone; Editing by Chelsea Emery
and Leslie Adler)