Retail Midwest

Will consumer debt take the merry out of retailers' holiday shopping season?

Will consumer debt stop a happy holiday season for retailers,ph01

Retailers are hoping for a busy holiday shopping season this year, one that will help them end their years on a positive. But might consumers be too burdened with debt to spend big this holiday season?

That’s the question asked by a new survey from COUNTRY Financial, which found that a large percentage of U.S. consumers are not only stressed by the holiday season but are particularly worried about how much money they’ll spend while checking everyone off their gift-giving list.

The shopping season from November through December is always a big one for retailers. For many, it’s the difference between a profitable year and one in which they struggle. And with retail in a more fragile state today thanks to ecommerce and changing consumer tastes, the holiday shopping season is more important than ever.

According to COUNTRY Financial’s survey, 70 percent of U.S. consumers are stressed about the holiday season. And of this group, 32 percent feel the greatest stress around holiday finances. That stressor ranks number one among those feeling anxious about the holidays.

Why so much financial stress? It might be because U.S. residents are so burdened with debt. According to the survey, U.S. consumers on average would need a gift of $58,673 to be totally debt-free this holiday season.

“The financial pressures and additional expenses around the holidays can make it a stressful time for many Americans, especially those who are already carrying a variety of debts,” said Tim Harris, executive vice president at COUNTRY Financial, in a written statement.

The survey found, too, that nearly 40 percent of Americans don’t plan on setting a holiday spending budget and 72 percent don’t save up money throughout the year to cover holiday expenses.

The survey also asked respondents what gift would top their holiday wish list if money were no object. A total of 49 percent chose having one of their debts completely paid off. According to the survey, 20 percent would want their mortgage loans paid off, 13 percent their credit card debt, 9 percent personal loan debt and 7 percent student loan debt.

Those who chose a gift to pay off their credit debt said they would need an average of $41,159 to pay off what they owe. Those who chose student loans would need an average of $50,914.