Stressed-Out Americans Plan to Buy Fewer Christmas Gifts, Donate Less to Charity
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    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,599,192 (-0.51%)       Melbourne $986,501 (-0.24%)       Brisbane $938,846 (+0.04%)       Adelaide $864,470 (+0.79%)       Perth $822,991 (-0.13%)       Hobart $755,620 (-0.26%)       Darwin $665,693 (-0.13%)       Canberra $994,740 (+0.67%)       National $1,027,820 (-0.13%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $746,448 (+0.19%)       Melbourne $495,247 (+0.53%)       Brisbane $534,081 (+1.16%)       Adelaide $409,697 (-2.19%)       Perth $437,258 (+0.97%)       Hobart $531,961 (+0.68%)       Darwin $367,399 (0%)       Canberra $499,766 (0%)       National $525,746 (+0.31%)                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 10,586 (+169)       Melbourne 15,093 (+456)       Brisbane 7,795 (+246)       Adelaide 2,488 (+77)       Perth 6,274 (+65)       Hobart 1,315 (+13)       Darwin 255 (+4)       Canberra 1,037 (+17)       National 44,843 (+1,047)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,675 (+47)       Melbourne 7,961 (+171)       Brisbane 1,636 (+24)       Adelaide 462 (+20)       Perth 1,749 (+2)       Hobart 206 (+4)       Darwin 384 (+2)       Canberra 914 (+19)       National 21,987 (+289)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $770 (-$10)       Melbourne $590 (-$5)       Brisbane $620 ($0)       Adelaide $595 (-$5)       Perth $650 ($0)       Hobart $550 ($0)       Darwin $700 ($0)       Canberra $700 ($0)       National $654 (-$3)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $730 (+$10)       Melbourne $580 ($0)       Brisbane $620 ($0)       Adelaide $470 ($0)       Perth $600 ($0)       Hobart $460 (-$10)       Darwin $550 ($0)       Canberra $560 (-$5)       National $583 (+$1)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 5,253 (-65)       Melbourne 5,429 (+1)       Brisbane 3,933 (-4)       Adelaide 1,178 (+17)       Perth 1,685 ($0)       Hobart 393 (+25)       Darwin 144 (+6)       Canberra 575 (-22)       National 18,590 (-42)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 6,894 (-176)       Melbourne 4,572 (-79)       Brisbane 1,991 (+1)       Adelaide 377 (+6)       Perth 590 (+3)       Hobart 152 (+6)       Darwin 266 (+10)       Canberra 525 (+8)       National 15,367 (-221)                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND         Sydney 2.50% (↓)       Melbourne 3.11% (↓)       Brisbane 3.43% (↓)       Adelaide 3.58% (↓)     Perth 4.11% (↑)      Hobart 3.78% (↑)      Darwin 5.47% (↑)        Canberra 3.66% (↓)       National 3.31% (↓)            UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 5.09% (↑)        Melbourne 6.09% (↓)       Brisbane 6.04% (↓)     Adelaide 5.97% (↑)        Perth 7.14% (↓)       Hobart 4.50% (↓)       Darwin 7.78% (↓)       Canberra 5.83% (↓)       National 5.76% (↓)            HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.7% (↑)      Melbourne 0.8% (↑)      Brisbane 0.4% (↑)      Adelaide 0.4% (↑)      Perth 1.2% (↑)      Hobart 0.6% (↑)      Darwin 1.1% (↑)      Canberra 0.7% (↑)      National 0.7% (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 0.9% (↑)      Melbourne 1.4% (↑)      Brisbane 0.7% (↑)      Adelaide 0.3% (↑)      Perth 0.4% (↑)      Hobart 1.5% (↑)      Darwin 0.8% (↑)      Canberra 1.3% (↑)        National 0.9% (↓)            AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND         Sydney 28.7 (↓)       Melbourne 30.7 (↓)       Brisbane 31.0 (↓)       Adelaide 25.4 (↓)       Perth 34.0 (↓)       Hobart 34.8 (↓)       Darwin 35.1 (↓)       Canberra 28.5 (↓)       National 31.0 (↓)            AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND         Sydney 25.8 (↓)       Melbourne 30.2 (↓)       Brisbane 27.6 (↓)       Adelaide 21.8 (↓)       Perth 37.8 (↓)       Hobart 25.2 (↓)       Darwin 24.8 (↓)       Canberra 41.1 (↓)       National 29.3 (↓)           
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Stressed-Out Americans Plan to Buy Fewer Christmas Gifts, Donate Less to Charity

Inflation is souring the holiday season, a crucial time when companies, charities and nonprofits typically collect their biggest haul of the year

By Rachel Wolfe and Jon Hilsenrath
Mon, Nov 21, 2022 9:11amGrey Clock 6 min

Households, retailers and charities nationwide, feeling the pinch of inflation, are bracing for a humbug holiday season.

U.S. consumers and businesses have trimmed spending plans for gifts, charitable contributions and holiday events, data show. The penny-pinching threatens to spoil the year-end for many, especially firms and nonprofits that tally their largest share of sales and donations in November and December.

“We’re hopeful for a strong giving season, but we’re not counting on it,” said Thomas Tighe, chief executive of Direct Relief, a medical-assistance nonprofit that takes in around $2 billion a year in donated medicine, supplies and cash to deliver help around the world.

Opal Holt-Philip’s children—ages 5, 9 and 12—will be among those taking the brunt of rising prices. Ms. Holt-Philip has always made sure the children woke on Christmas to piles of presents under the tree, just as she did growing up. Ms. Holt-Philip and her husband, Anthony Philip, typically save for months and shop early to check off wish lists. In past years, that meant more than 20 small presents per child. Not this time.

Rent on the family’s two-bedroom Miami apartment rose to $2,600 a month this spring from $1,365 when they arrived in 2020. With the added pressure of trying to save for a house, Ms. Holt-Philip, a 33-year-old wellness blogger, said she asked her children to settle on one “really good gift” apiece. She and her husband agreed to skip gifts for each other this year.

It all feels wrong, Ms. Holt-Philip said, but “we have to eat.”

Consumer prices have risen faster than wages this year, and high inflation has proved more persistent than many policy makers expected. The high cost of living has unnerved consumers, despite a strong job market, a cushion of household savings built up during the Covid-19 pandemic and a few signs that inflation is slowing.

The University of Michigan estimated that household sentiment in the past six months is comparable to late 2008 and early 2009, when the financial system verged on economic disaster and unemployment was soaring. The index also echoes wary levels of the 1970s, when inflation climbed to double digits.

A Census Bureau survey of households in early October found that 41% of Americans, around 95 million people, said they were having difficulty paying for essential household expenses, compared with 29% a year earlier.

People plan to buy an average of nine gifts this year compared with 16 last year, according to Deloitte consulting’s 37th annual holiday shopping survey of 5,000 respondents in September. Total anticipated spending per household was $1,455, down from $1,463 a year ago, Deloitte said. People in the survey said they also planned to spend less time shopping than they did last year.

The Conference Board, a nonprofit research organization that surveys household confidence each month, said individuals had cut gift spending plans to $613 this year from $648 in 2021. Home décor, furniture, appliances, jewelry and tools are among the categories facing the biggest cuts.

In an August survey of 2,415 adults by Bankrate, the consumer finance website, 84% of holiday shoppers said they would pursue money-saving tactics this year—relying on coupons and discounts, buying fewer items, shopping for cheaper gifts and cheaper brands or making presents themselves.

Of course, the outlook might shift. Economists have found that households don’t always do what they say on survey answers. A drop in gasoline and food prices or a bump in the stock market could boost holiday spending. A recent government report showed retail sales picked up in October, in part because of higher prices.

The best news would likely be a measure of relief from inflation.

‘Mom guilt’

After raising prices for months, some firms are betting that markdowns will buck up sales and clear inventory.

The Toy Association, which represents companies responsible for 96% of all toys sold in the U.S., forecasts a season of price cuts. Apparel prices also are headed down, according to DataWeave Inc., an analytics company that tracks online prices for thousands of retail items. Gap Inc. is offering discounts as high as 60%, a level of savings virtually impossible to find during last year’s holiday season, when supply-chain problems left retailers short of inventory.

Target Corp. executives said last week that consumers have pulled back on spending, sapping sales and profits, and prompting the company to plan discounts to clear out unwanted inventory during the holidays.

Many independent stores can’t afford deep discounts. Keri Piehl, owner of Color Wheel Toys in Albuquerque, N.M., said she had strong sales last year but worries about customers shopping online or at big-box retailers this year. To cut costs, she stopped ordering large paper bags for customer purchases, and, to save on shipping, she is buying more items in bulk. Ms. Piehl said she was storing the extra merchandise in her home office.

High inflation seemed to restrain holiday-season shopping over the past eight decades. Eleven times since World War II, the consumer-price index has equaled or exceeded 6% around holiday time; this year it was at 7.7% as of October. Consumer spending had an average growth rate of 1.2% in those years, compared with a rate of 3.4% in years with lower inflation, Commerce Department data show.

American consumer spending has been on a downward trend for months. After jumping by more than 8% last year, adjusted for inflation, consumer spending grew less than 2% during the first nine months of this year.

“I’m not canceling Christmas. I’m not the Grinch,” Richard House, chief executive of FlexShopper Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla.-based online retailer serving consumers with low credit ratings, told analysts this month. “But we’re cautious regarding the amount of volume that may be there.”

Michael Liersch, a financial planning specialist at Wells Fargo, guides the bank’s army of local advisers in branches around the U.S. He said he was struck by the number of families talking about scaling back this year.

Some are taking children to stores to learn exactly what they want. “No surprises, really keeping it very practical,” Mr. Liersch said. “If you recall 10, 20 to 30 years ago, there was a notion where families had relatives give essential items. Moving back into that. Less discretionary items, more needs.”

Maggie Enriquez, a single mother in Austin, Texas, spent about $1,000 on gifts last year for her 2-year-old daughter, Lela, and her extended family. This year, she plans to wrap toy dinosaurs and games that Lela’s older half-brother doesn’t use anymore for her daughter to open on Christmas.

Ms. Enriquez, 37, is a digital-ad sales development representative at a social-media company, a job she supplements working weekends as an Uber driver to pay for daycare, rent and groceries. Her digital-sales contract is up in March, and she is worried about company budget cuts.

In past years, Ms. Enriquez has contributed to online Christmas wish-list sites and toy drives for children in need. This year, she worries she might have to apply as a recipient rather than a donor.

“I am feeling a bit bereft that I can’t give the way I want to this year,” she said. “I take a lot of pride in being able to provide for my daughter, and when I can’t, I feel really inadequate, and the mom guilt kicks in.”

Tough choices

The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas accounts for between 20% and 30% of charitable donations, according to the Giving USA Foundation.

Leaders of the Salvation Army, whose bell-ringing volunteers collect donations from passersby, are worried. Many people are facing a tough holiday season, Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder said, “particularly those who have to make choices between buying toys, putting food on the table or paying utilities.”

Requests for assistance from people in need in various spots around the U.S. are up 25% to 50% from last year, Mr. Hodder said, and he expects fewer coins and bills getting dropped into the Salvation Army’s red kettles.

Crowdfunding platform Kiva surveyed 2,000 Americans and found that many planned to give less to charity compared with last year: 44% blamed a lack of funds, 42% said donating was “for the privileged.”

GivingTuesday, a nonprofit, and the Association of Fundraising Professionals said the number of donors nationwide fell steeply in the second quarter, driven by declines in donations of less than $500. Fundraising totals were up 6.2% during that time but didn’t keep pace with the second quarter’s inflation rate of more than 8%.

Holiday work parties also are looking less festive. Avital Ungar, a party planner who works with Fortune 500 companies and startups in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles, said many clients, facing hiring freezes or layoffs, don’t have the budget for elaborate events this year.

Restaurants around the country are feeling the fallout.

Mani Bhushan, who owns four Mexican restaurants in the Dallas area, said that in prepandemic times he would have received dozens of catering orders for 100-plus person Christmas events by this time in the holiday season. He currently has none. Large-group reservations, he said, are down 95% from 2019.

Overall sales numbers are up, Mr. Bhushan said, but he is barely breaking even because of the rising cost of rent, labor and ingredients. A pound of chicken breast is $4.33 compared with $2.99 a year ago. “I used to pay $14 for a good cook,” he said, and now it is $18 an hour for even a marginal cook.

Ms. Holt-Philip, the Miami wellness blogger, is looking on the bright side. She hopes that her family’s limited budget for gifts will keep the focus on the true meaning of the holidays: spending time together.

For the first time, she, her husband and their three children plan to spend Christmas with a dozen or so relatives at a family cabin in Doniphan, Mo. They will roast marshmallows and play Family Feud in front of the fireplace, Ms. Holt-Philip said. With any luck, the children will see their first snowfall.

“Honestly, if this goes as planned,” she said, “a reduced gift-giving Christmas might become our new normal.”



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Why Prices of the World’s Most Expensive Handbags Keep Rising

Designers are charging more for their most recognisable bags to maintain the appearance of exclusivity as the industry balloons

By CAROL RYAN
Tue, Mar 5, 2024 3 min

The price of a basic Hermès Birkin handbag has jumped $1,000. This first-world problem for fashionistas is a sign that luxury brands are playing harder to get with their most sought-after products.

Hermès recently raised the cost of a basic Birkin 25-centimeter handbag in its U.S. stores by 10% to $11,400 before sales tax, according to data from luxury handbag forum PurseBop. Rarer Birkins made with exotic skins such as crocodile have jumped more than 20%. The Paris brand says it only increases prices to offset higher manufacturing costs, but this year’s increase is its largest in at least a decade.

The brand may feel under pressure to defend its reputation as the maker of the world’s most expensive handbags. The “Birkin premium”—the price difference between the Hermès bag and its closest competitor , the Chanel Classic Flap in medium—shrank from 70% in 2019 to 2% last year, according to PurseBop founder Monika Arora. Privately owned Chanel has jacked up the price of its most popular handbag by 75% since before the pandemic.

Eye-watering price increases on luxury brands’ benchmark products are a wider trend. Prada ’s Galleria bag will set shoppers back a cool $4,600—85% more than in 2019, according to the Wayback Machine internet archive. Christian Dior ’s Lady Dior bag and the Louis Vuitton Neverfull are both 45% more expensive, PurseBop data show.

With the U.S. consumer-price index up a fifth since 2019, luxury brands do need to offset higher wage and materials costs. But the inflation-beating increases are also a way to manage the challenge presented by their own success: how to maintain an aura of exclusivity at the same time as strong sales.

Luxury brands have grown enormously in recent years, helped by the Covid-19 lockdowns, when consumers had fewer outlets for spending. LVMH ’s fashion and leather goods division alone has almost doubled in size since 2019, with €42.2 billion in sales last year, equivalent to $45.8 billion at current exchange rates. Gucci, Chanel and Hermès all make more than $10 billion in sales a year. One way to avoid overexposure is to sell fewer items at much higher prices.

Many aspirational shoppers can no longer afford the handbags, but luxury brands can’t risk alienating them altogether. This may explain why labels such as Hermès and Prada have launched makeup lines and Gucci’s owner Kering is pushing deeper into eyewear. These cheaper categories can be a kind of consolation prize. They can also be sold in the tens of millions without saturating the market.

“Cosmetics are invisible—unless you catch someone applying lipstick and see the logo, you can’t tell the brand,” says Luca Solca, luxury analyst at Bernstein.

Most of the luxury industry’s growth in 2024 will come from price increases. Sales are expected to rise by 7% this year, according to Bernstein estimates, even as brands only sell 1% to 2% more stuff.

Limiting volume growth this way only works if a brand is so popular that shoppers won’t balk at climbing prices and defect to another label. Some companies may have pushed prices beyond what consumers think they are worth. Sales of Prada’s handbags rose a meagre 1% in its last quarter and the group’s cheaper sister label Miu Miu is growing faster.

Ramping up prices can invite unflattering comparisons. At more than $2,000, Burberry ’s small Lola bag is around 40% more expensive today than it was a few years ago. Luxury shoppers may decide that tried and tested styles such as Louis Vuitton’s Neverfull bag, which is now a little cheaper than the Burberry bag, are a better buy—especially as Louis Vuitton bags hold their value better in the resale market.

Aggressive price increases can also drive shoppers to secondhand websites. If a barely used Prada Galleria bag in excellent condition can be picked up for $1,500 on luxury resale website The Real Real, it is less appealing to pay three times that amount for the bag brand new.

The strategy won’t help everyone, but for the best luxury brands, stretching the price spectrum can keep the risks of growth in check.

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