PHILADELPHIA-Shoppers in Greater Philadelphia plan to spend, on average, $522 on gifts from November through January, which is $114 less than the national average of $636. When holiday travel and entertainment are combined with gift-buying, people in Greater Philadelphia plan to spend, on average, $1,280, which is $435 less than the national average of $1,715.

That doesn’t mean Philly shoppers are cheap, assures Tara Weiner, vice chairman and national managing partner of Deloitte & Touche USA. Weiner unveiled the Philadelphia-area findings of Deloitte’s annual outlook on holiday consumer spending at a joint press conference here with the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

She attributed the discrepancy between shoppers here and other major US cities to “cost of living differentials.” Higher expenditures by residents of Chicago, Dallas, New York and Southern California, she said, can be attributed to the higher salaries, real estate costs and other expenses in those cities. Shoppers here, however, will likely outspend residents of Seattle, Denver and the San Francisco Bay area, Weiner reported, noting that the “tech bust” in some Western metropolitan areas have left consumers cautious. The Deloitte Philadelphia data encompasses a broad area of Western Pennsylvania, which includes Harrisburg, Allentown and the entire Lehigh Valley.

Here as elsewhere, gift cards rank high on holiday shopping lists. Weiner said, on average, Philly shoppers will match the anticipated national average and purchase five gift cards this season. For the first time since their inception, gift cards will replace apparel as the gift purchase of choice, according to Weiner.

More than a third of the consumers surveyed, 34%, will buy gift cards for restaurants, and Georges Perrier, chef proprietor of three Center City restaurants, including the five-star Le Bec Fin, is ready for them. At the conference, Perrier noted that in addition to gift cards for meals at his restaurants, he offers his signature cookbook, jams, chocolates and gift baskets.

Gift cards are especially popular among shoppers over age 65 and those with annual incomes of more than $100,000. Unused cards represent an opportunity for retailers that want to consider new ways of enticing gift card holders into their stores. “With the increasing popularity of gift cards,” she said, “retailers will be well served by launching gift card redemption campaigns, as they are unable to report the sale until the card is redeemed.”

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