Despite a gradually improving economy, consumers plan to spend less and save more this holiday season, according to Nielsen's annual holiday retail survey. Some 42% of consumers plan to spend less this year on holiday gifts than last year; only 4% say they will spend more.

Consumers also plan to spend a smaller percentage of their overall holiday budget online: 63% say they will do at least some holiday shopping online, down 10 percentage points from two years ago; 7% say they will not do any shopping online, compared with 1% in 2007 and 3% in 2008.

Among consumers who do plan to shop online, many expect to spend significantly less than last year: 31% say they will spend more than $300 online during the holidays, compared with 42% in 2008, and 22% say they will spend less than $100 online this year.

Consumers shop online primarily for convenience, the survey finds: The top reason consumers shop online is for the ability to shop whenever they want, followed by the ability to avoid holiday shopping crowds.

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