Consumer Confidential: Holiday shopping, fewer fliers, gas pains


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Here’s your last-train-to-Clarksville Tuesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--We’re still shopping, right down to the wire. Sales at stores opened at least a year rose 3.4% for the week ended Saturday compared with the previous week, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index. That follows two consecutive weekly declines as shoppers took a break after a discount-fueled spending spree over the Thanksgiving weekend. Compared with a year ago, sales for the week rose 4.6%. And there’s still more shopping to do. According to a poll of 1,000 shoppers conducted by ICSC and Goldman Sachs, shoppers on average completed 70% of their holiday buying as of Sunday. Moreover, 9% of shoppers polled hadn’t even started their holiday buying. Man, talk about procrastinators. (Associated Press)


--And we’re still traveling, but not quite as much. The estimate for the upcoming winter holiday travel period predicts there will be fewer fliers than a year ago. A projected 43.3 million air travelers will fly on U.S. carriers for both domestic and international routes during a 21-day period, according to Airlines for America, the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines. That’s a 1% drop from the same period last year, which translates to about 20,000 fewer passengers on average per day. However, travelers will not find that translates into more leg room once they board planes. On the busiest days, flights will be filled to at least 85% capacity, according to the forecast. (CNN)

--Feeling a bite out of your earnings? That’s your gasoline bill talking. Despite the fact that gas prices have been falling in recent weeks, the fact is consumers have spent more money on gas this year than any other, according to the Oil Price Information Service. As of mid-December, gas prices have averaged $3.52 per gallon. Based on recent demand trends, the total consumers will have spent on gas this year should be about $481 billion. Last year, motorists spent a total of $389 billion on gas, according to OPIS. When all of this data is broken down, each American household will have spent an average of $4,155 on gasoline 2011, approximately 8.4% of an average family’s income. Ouch. (

-- David Lazarus