If the holidays seem to take a bigger bite out of your budget every year, it’s not your imagination. The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend a grand total of $457.4 billion at retail stores this holiday season, an increase of 5 percent over 2005. Chicago’s contribution to that total will be roughly $12.8 billion.

Number of holiday gifts the typical shopper expects to buy
Amount the average U.S. consumer planned to spend on gifts in 2005
Actual amount the average U.S. consumer spent on gifts in 2005
Sources: Consolidated Credit Counseling, Unity Marketing Gift Report

Chicago Sales Figures

Over the past couple of years, spending at Chicago discount and department stores has wavered, while sales at specialty apparel stores have gone up significantly. There are a couple of reasons, says John C. Melaniphy, president of Melaniphy & Associates, a retail consulting firm: “Sears did not advertise in the last quarter of 2005, and they saw their sales decline. Also, old Field’s customers were really upset [about the change to Macy’s], and I believe that’s reflected in the declines of the last quarter of 2005.” As for discount stores, adds Melaniphy, consumers have found that lower prices sometimes mean lower quality, and they’re going back to more expensive apparel stores.


Figures for Chicago metro area, October–December. Source: Illinois Department of Revenue

Percentage of people who started holiday shopping before Halloween last year
Percentage of people who were completely finished shopping ten days before Christmas
Source: National Retail Federation

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Percentage of U.S. consumers who acquired credit card debt during the 2004 holidays
Percentage who were still paying off this debt as the 2005 holiday season approached

Rank of Illinois in credit card debt per state
$36 billion
Total amount of credit card debt carried by Illinois consumers
Average amount of credit card debt per Illinois household
Sources: Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, Center for a New American Dream/Widmeyer Research and Polling

Most Popular Toys

Trends come and go; this season’s hot toy becomes next year’s garage sale item. Through the decades, though, certain toys have been such solid hits that chances are good your own kids have found them under the Christmas tree.

Crayola crayons
Raggedy Ann dolls
Madame Alexander dolls
Viewmaster 3-D viewer
Candy Land
Mr. Potato Head


G.I. Joe
Rubik’s cube
Cabbage Patch Kids
Beanie Babies
Razor scooter
Source: Forbes