It's beginning to look a lot like a weaker Christmas.
U.S. shoppers plan to spend an average of $704.18 on holiday gifts and seasonal goods this year, down nearly 2.1 percent from the $718.98 they spent in 2010, according to a survey issued by the National Retail Federation on Wednesday.
The retail trade group still expects total sales to rise 2.8 percent to $465.6 billion in November and December combined. Such sales rose 5.2 percent during the 2010 two-month holiday shopping season.
The state of the U.S. economy is affecting spending plans for 62.2 percent of those surveyed, up from 61.7 percent in 2010. People who are feeling pressure said that they plan to spend less, shop around, use coupons, buy more practical items as gifts and reuse last year's decorations.
Even a slight rise or decline in holiday season shopping could have a big impact on the economy, as consumer spending represents about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
Stores are likely to use promotions such as free gifts with purchases and extended warranties to try to entice shoppers who are focused on value, NRF President and Chief Executive Matthew Shay said in a statement.
"When it comes to retail growth this holiday season, slow and steady wins the race -- and the same is true for shoppers, who are meticulously calculating the best ways to stretch their dollar," he said.
New gadgets such as Apple Inc's (AAPL.O) latest iPhone and Amazon.com Inc's (AMZN.O) Kindle Fire could bring out some shoppers this year. Meanwhile, gasoline prices have retreated from recent highs, helping to perk up sales at chains such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N).
Most shoppers are thinking about themselves as well as others. Nearly six in 10 said that they plan to buy non-gift items for themselves and their families during the holiday season. The average person plans to spend about $130.43 on such goods this holiday season, up from $112.20 in 2010.
For the fifth year in a row, gift cards are the most popular item people would like to receive.
Discount stores remain the most popular place to shop and should gain a little bit of ground, as 66.1 percent plan to visit them, up from 65.1 percent last year.
More people plan to buy online, with 46.7 percent set to do so, up from 43.9 percent in 2010.
Using mobile phones to comparison-shop and tablet computers to do research and buy are also becoming more popular. More than one-third of tablet owners, 34.8 percent, said that they plan to buy items on their device.
Still, heading out to stores remains the norm. Only 1.7 percent of respondents said that they plan to do all of their holiday shopping online. And 56.8 percent said that they do not own either a smartphone or a tablet.
The survey was conducted by BIGresearch, which polled 8,585 consumers from October 4 through October 11. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent.
(Reporting by Jessica Wohl in Chicago, editing by Matthew Lewis)