What to Expect from Retailers This Holiday Season

A behind-the-scenes look at how stores—and shoppers—are gearing up for the shopping days ahead.

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If this year's top sellers are any indication, the dependence on mobile devices to shop will only grow next year. Consumer electronics, and in particular, tablets, are among the most popular items this year. According to a survey by comparison site TechBargains, shoppers will spend about a quarter of their gift budgets on electronics, which equates to an average of $200 to $500. Some 64 percent of shoppers plan to buy a tablet in the next six months, with the Kindle Fire offering a relatively affordable option at $199.

But not everyone is jumping on the shop-happy bandwagon. Plenty of Americans, especially those who are unemployed or under-employed, aren't in the mood for big spending sprees. Three in 10 people surveyed by USAA said they planned to spend less on gifts this year, and 4 percent say they will spend nothing at all.

Personal finance writer Zac Bissonnette counts himself in that last group. "I don't buy people gifts," he says, explaining that he thinks it's an inefficient and ineffective way of expressing affection. Bissonnette adds, "If you find yourself appalled by the materialistic frenzy that is the holiday, the best thing you can do is abstain from it. Instead of buying stuff, hang out with people. The money you save on gifts just might give you the time to do that."

Twitter: @alphaconsumer