NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Holiday shopping can be a high-wire act during times of economic hardship that can turn seemingly innocent gift excess into an outright insult.
While Consumer Reports predicts holiday spending will grow 4% from last year to $707 per shopper this holiday season, uncertainty abounds. Unemployment is down from 9.8% last November, but still sits at 8.6%. That's well above the nation's 4.6% unemployment rate in November 2006 and isn't something Americans are adjusting to easily.
Even the National Retail Federation, which recently upgraded its holiday forecast from an October estimate of 2.8% growth in the number of toys in Santa's sleigh this year to a 3.8% increase, has had its flying-reindeer-altitude optimism grounded by economic reality. When asked if the state of the U.S. economy would affect their holiday spending, 62% of NRF holiday survey respondents said yes. That's up slightly from 81.5% last year and comes with serious consequences for retailers.About 83% of consumers worried about the economy are spending less overall this holiday season. More than a quarter will be traveling less or not at all. Another 14% will be making gifts for family and friends instead of buying them this year. A solid 11.6% are doing at least some of their holiday shopping at thrift stores.
Few others are feeling the urge to splurge this holiday season. Only 70% of all companies says they're having company holiday parties this year, which staffing firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas says is down from 90% in 2007. There'll be a lot less cheer at the parties that remain after the amount of holiday parties serving booze dropped from 90% in 2000 to just 50% this year. In light of this somber subtext, we took a good, hard look at this year's gift offerings and came up with five items that are wildly inappropriate for the current economic climate: