This Christmas, we're expected to spend an average £655 each on gifts, food and socialising. Yet analysts are warning retailers that they are heading into the 'the perfect storm'. Deloitte says 57% of punters are set to spend as usual this year. It even reckons 19%, mainly 16- to 24-year-olds, are planning to spend more than they did last year. (Where do they find such well-organised youth? We can't imagine them putting down their Wii's long enough to build spreadsheets of their projected festive spend.) But it's hard to ignore the gathering clouds. The £31.1bn estimate is actually 7% down on last year's Christmas spend, marking the first time that the outlay will have dropped since 1997. However, retail analyst Verdict reckons that overall spending will actually rise, thanks largely to the effects of food-price inflation. Even then, at only 2%, it's the second-lowest growth rate in 20 years. But enough of the seasonal soothsaying. The proof of the Christmas pudding - if there is to be any this year - is in the eating. As Sir Philip Green has said: 'I want to make a profit, not be a prophet.'