A recent consumer survey conducted by consulting firm Deloitte LLP indicates holiday sales could perk up, which would by extension fuel freight demand through year’s end.

According to Deloitte's 27th annual survey of holiday spending intentions and trends, 50% of consumers surveyed expect the economy will improve next year, up from just 33% heading into the holiday season last year. As a result, the number of consumers planning to reduce holiday spending declined to 37% – the lowest level recorded by the firm’s survey since 2006.   

The 5,089 consumers in Deloitte’s poll also indicated that spending on gifts remains similar to last year, averaging $386, which is down just slightly from $395 in 2011.  The average number of gifts consumers plan to purchase fell to 12.8 from 14.7 last year, a number that has declined steadily from 23.1 in 2007.

However, the 2012 holiday shopping season is not without potential challenges for retailers, Deloitte cautioned, as 24% of the consumers in its poll said they will delay their shopping until the presidential election has been decided. Still, 50% of consumers indicate the election will not change their spending plans and 23% remain undecided whether the election will affect how much they spend.

"Consumers appear to be turning a corner and are more confident about the economy," said Alison Paul, Deloitte’s vice chairman and its retail & distribution sector leader. 

“Recent improvements in housing, employment and the stock market may have buoyed their spirits, but their optimism is somewhat tempered as they keep an eye on energy costs and possible tax increases,” she noted. “The election may initially distract consumers, but we expect them to give retailers a post-election 'bounce' once their attention turns to the holidays and shopping.”