FRESNO, Calif. -The holiday shopping season is right around the corner, which means consumers will be out in full force looking for the perfect gifts for their loved ones for the next month.
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday retail sales in November and December—excluding automobiles, gasoline and restaurants—for 2017 is expected to increase between 3.6 and 4 percent for a total of $678.8-$682 billion, up from $655.8 billion last year.
Not only will overall holiday spending break records this year, but individual spending will as well. Consumers say they are planning to spend an average of $967.13 this year, which is a 3.4 percent increase from the $935.58 consumers planned on spending last year.
Consumer confidence and an extra weekend shopping day are said to be the reasoning behind a strong upcoming holiday season.
For the first time in survey history, online shopping is the most popular destination this year with 59 percent of consumers turning to their electronic devices for their holiday shopping. Department stores aren’t far behind with 57 percent of consumers planning on shopping there, while 54 percent plan to use discount stores to buy gifts for their loved ones.
For the eleventh straight year, gift cards remain the most popular item on wish lists with 61 percent of those surveyed requesting them, followed by clothing and accessories (55 percent), electronics and accessories (33 percent), and jewelry at 23 percent.
Better Business Bureau Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties offer up the following tips to shop smart this holiday season.
Shop with trust
Don’t jump at the first deal you find, instead take some time to do your research. Check out their BBB business profile to see how long they’ve been in business, if they are accredited or not, and what past customers have to say about them. This will tell you a lot about a company and may be the difference between doing business with them, or someone else.
Gift receipts and warranty information
A gift receipt can be tucked into a gift item or card so that the recipient can return or exchange a gift if it’s not just right. Be sure to pass along any information about returns, exchanges, repairs and warranties to the person who will use the item.
With all the promotional emails you’ll be receiving during the holidays, scammers will be out in full force. It’s best not to click on any links in emails from senders you don’t recognize. You can also hover your mouse over links without clicking to see if the address is really taking you to where it says it is. Also, check the reply email address. The address should be on a company domain.
When shopping from an online website the first step is to make sure the URL starts with “https” and includes a lock symbol. The S in “https” stands for secure, that way you know your information is being protected.
Be sure to use your credit card instead of your debit card, as credit cards not only provide additional protection, but it’s also easier to dispute a fraudulent charge.
Don’t log onto any website with sensitive personal information such as your banking website or any account that requires a user name and password using public Wi-Fi.
Check the shipping policy
When ordering online, many retailers have certain cut off dates for specific shipping speeds. Their website may say something like 12 hours left for economy shipping with guaranteed delivery by December 24th. If you wait until the last minute, expect to pay extra for rush or even overnight shipping. Be sure to read the fine print before placing your order, or else your gift may not arrive in time.
Check your email
Many stores release their Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals to people who have signed up to receive their emails. Just make sure it’s the real business and not a scammer.
Know the advertiser
Some of the best deals are only available online, but be careful. It’s easy for a fake site to mimic a famous retailer’s website, so make sure you are shopping with a legitimate site.
Read the fine print
Some stores only honor sale ads during a certain time frame, or on certain days. Some stores may only allow you to purchase one item, particularly large, popular and/or deeply discounted products.
After you’ve done your holiday shopping, tell us about your experience by submitting a BBB customer review.
ABOUT BBB: For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central California & Inland Empire Counties which was founded in 1950 and serves Fresno, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Mono, Tulare, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.