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You'll probably spend $868 on holiday gifts this year (according to one survey)

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People in the Twin Cities are embracing the spirit of giving this holiday season. Or at the very least, the spirit of buying things.

The annual University of St. Thomas' Holiday Sentiment Survey says shoppers are expected to spend a record amount on holiday gifts this season.

It found shoppers are planning to spend an average of $868 per household this season – $31 more than last year and the highest amount since the survey began in 2001. Based on these results, St. Thomas estimates the metro area will spend a total of $1.15 billion this year – up 4.6 percent from last year's predicted $1.09 billion.

"Our data tell us that consumers are ready to buy," David Brennan, a retailing specialist at St. Thomas' Opus College of Business, said in the survey, citing the low unemployment rate and the benefits of lower gas prices.

What they'll buy

The survey also gives a "peek under the tree," noting shoppers will be buying similar things as they did last year.

Here's the breakdown of the top 10 gift categories this year:

  1. Gift certificates (last year No. 1)
  2. Clothing/accessories (last year No. 2)
  3. Cash (last year No. 3)
  4. Travel (last year No. 6)
  5. Toys/hobbies (last year No. 5)
  6. Computers/related items (last year No. 9)
  7. Books (last year No. 4)
  8. Entertainment (last year No. 7)
  9. Sporting goods (last year No. 10)
  10. Cell phones, related items (last year No. 13)

St. Thomas professor Jonathan Seltzer says the days of the "must-have" Christmas toys are in the past. But two dolls – unsurprisingly Anna and Elsa from the hit Disney movie "Frozen" – are expected to be big sellers.

Where they'll shop

The region's malls will be slightly less busy this year compared to last year, according to the survey. Shoppers plan to spend 43 percent of their holiday budget at local malls and downtown areas, down from 45 percent last year.

The five malls shoppers plan to do most of their shopping:

  1. Rosedale Mall (last year No. 2)
  2. Mall of America (last year No. 1)
  3. Ridgedale Mall (last year No. 7)
  4. Eden Prairie Mall (last year No. 8)
  5. Maplewood Mall (last year No. 4)

Brennan says the importance of the big malls like the ones listed above are "diminishing" because there are so many more places to shop now, including smaller lifestyle shopping centers and, of course, the Internet.

Online shopping is expected to make up 33 percent of spending, compared to 34 percent last year. Amazon.com is expected to lead the pack for online shopping by a huge margin, with Target at No. 2, followed by eBay, Groupon and Best Buy.

However, Target leads the way for online shopping for websites that have actual brick-and-mortar buildings, followed by Macy's Kohl's, JC Penny and Best Buy.

The survey says stand-alone stores will account for 19 percent of the holiday shopping budget, while catalogs will make up 5 percent.

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