Nearly one-quarter of U.S. consumers say that they have already begun their holiday shopping, according to Nielsen’s 2013 Holiday Spending Forecast. With consumer confidence higher than it has been in the last five years, the New York-based market research firm found that 60 percent plan to spend the same amount this holiday season as last year.

The annual Nielsen Holiday Spending Forecast surveyed more than 22,000 demographically representative households throughout the United States in September. Its sales forecast was driven from an analysis of 92 categories covering food, beverages, alcohol, health and beauty aids, and homecare.  

Overall, Nielsen projects that dollar sales for the categories will increase 1.9 percent, but unit sales will decrease 0.4 percent. Alcohol beverages, however, will increase 4.6 and 3 percent in dollar and unit sales, respectively, it predicts. Beer, wine and liquor all are expected to drive between $60 and $70 million growth. Because of pricing, wine is projected to increase 3.5 percent in dollar sales but remain flat in unit sales. Nielsen expects wine coolers to experience the strongest unit growth within the category with a 25.8 percent increase in dollar sales and a 41.7 percent increase in unit sales. Alcohol beverages will be the No. 10 most-purchased holiday gift this year, Nielsen predicts.

Because of price increases, non-alcohol beverages are projected to increase 0.4 percent in dollar sales but fall 0.9 percent in unit sales. Coffee, in particular, is expected to increase 5.2 percent and 6.7 percent in dollar and unit sales, respectively. Healthy options also are projected to perform well this holiday season. Nielsen predicts a 5.4 and 2.3 percent increase in dollar and unit sales, respectively, for bottled water and a 2.2 percent rise in dollar sales and 1.7 percent decrease in unit sales for juices and juice drinks. In comparison, it expects carbonated beverages to decrease 2.6 and 2.5 percent in dollar and unit sales, respectively, and shelf-stable juices to decrease 2.4 and 1.7 percent in dollar and unit sales, respectively.

When it comes to where consumers will shop, Nielsen’s Holiday Spending Forecast notes that online retailers should garner more business than they did last year, and mass merchandisers and dollar stores also will rank as popular spending channels.