(Reuters) - Consumers plan to spend an average of $749.51 on gifts, decorations and other holiday items this season, a mere 1.2 percent more than a year ago, according to a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation.
The rise would be the smallest since 2008-2009 when holiday sales fell 1.8 percent after the financial meltdown.
The survey results, released on Wednesday, are in line with other forecasts for a cautious increase in spending this holiday season as consumer sentiment began to improve.
"We've seen this pattern of cautious optimism all year and despite the challenges that still exist in our economy, it looks as if consumers are eager to celebrate with friends and family," federation President Matthew Shay said in a news release.
The $749.51 individual spending forecast is based on a survey of 8,899 consumers conducted October 2-8 by BIGinsight. The survey did not specify a beginning or end date to the holiday season, a spokeswoman for the retailers said.
In fact, 22.1 percent said they will begin holiday shopping in October, up from 20.3 percent last year, according to the survey.
Earlier this month, the trade group forecast sales would rise 4.1 percent during the November-December holiday season, using U.S. Commerce Department data.
(Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Chicago; Editing by Kenneth Barry)