Listen closely…can you hear that? It’s the terrified screams from millions of children enjoying their summer breaks as retailers pound a [premature] Back-to-School drumbeat to get the second largest shopping season of the year underway. And when schools return to session in September, you can expect retailers to strike up the promotional band for the biggest selling season of the year: Holiday 2013. Forget the screams (along with Halloween and Thanksgiving), and cue the Buddy-the-Elf-esque joyful noise: “Santa!”
By these standards, is July too early for a peek at holiday spending intentions? I think not. Unfortunately, preliminary estimates aren’t looking like they’ll make retailers’ cash registers sing this year.
According to the Prosper Spending Index, the overall outlook* for holiday gift spending in 2013 remains flat compared to last year’s initial reading with an index of 99.6 (baseline = 100). This year, fewer than one out of ten holiday shoppers (8.9%) is planning to budget more towards gift spending, decreasing from 10.2% recorded prior to the 2012 holiday season. Just over two in five (42.9%) plan to cut gift budgets, which is relatively flat from 2012. The near majority (48.2%) plans to spend the same, rising from last year’s 46.3%. The National Retail Federation reported a modest 3.0% increase in holiday sales in 2012.
A look at initial holiday gifting intentions by generation reveals that Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and the pre-1946 Silent generation may be the biggest Grinches this year, scoring below average Prosper Spending Indices of 86.0 and 90.1, respectively, compared to the overall outlook for Adults 18+ (baseline = 100). The holiday spending outlook for Gen X (1965-1982) is on par with the general population (index = 102.0), while Millennials (1983-1995) are the most likely to be making merry with retailers this season (index = 122.4).
While the youngest generation maintains the jolliest outlook for gift spending, it’s the lack of the enthusiasm from the Gen X-ers and Boomers that should be on retailers’ radar right now. These two generations accounted for two-thirds of planned holiday gift spending in 2012, budgeting a combined $81.2 billion for these purchases last year. Meanwhile, Millennials accounted for just one-fifth of forecasted spending on holiday gifts at $23.3 billion. Millennials’ planned gift spending on family members in particular lagged Gen X-ers and Boomers in 2012, perhaps with fewer children on their shopping lists compared to older generations.
Takeaway: While Millennials are an emerging, increasingly influential group of shoppers, Gen X-ers and Boomers are still driving holiday gift spending – and their ho-ho-hum preliminary outlook on the holiday season shouldn’t be taken lightly.
* Holiday outlook insights are based on adult (18+) celebrants who have holiday spending plans in mind.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.