5 things to know about discounts this holiday season

November 9, 2018

According to NRF’s annual holiday survey, consumers say they will spend an average $1,007 on gifts, decorations and more this holiday season. Four in 10 consumers start shopping for the holidays by November 1, but for many Americans, the unofficial “start” to the holiday shopping season is Thanksgiving weekend. In previous years, we’ve seen that shoppers can drop more than a third of their holiday budget over the five days of shopping from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday.

Consumers are hit with a barrage of sales and marketing messages around this holiday, but how do they actually behave when it comes to sales and promotions? A look at the data revealed these five trends.

Discounts are more important than ever

Consumers consider sales and promotions an integral part of their shopping journey, particularly during the holiday season when they’re likely buying more than they normally would. Last Thanksgiving weekend, 66 percent of those who planned to shop said they were doing so to take advantage of deals and promotions.


What may be surprising is exactly how much shoppers count on snagging deals. Three in 4 consumers reported that sales and promotions are very or extremely important to them. In fact, the majority of shoppers say a third or more of their purchases are typically items they’ve bought at a discounted price.

These discounts are most likely to influence purchase decisions when shopping for clothing, groceries and consumer electronics: 60 percent of shoppers say they’re buying more on sale now than they were five years ago. And it’s just not out of necessity. Even those consumers who earn well above the median U.S. income report they too are purchasing more items on sale now than they have in the past.

Shoppers are willing to wait for a deal

This value-focused mindset means shoppers may think twice before they pay full price for an item: 85 percent of consumers said they’ve backed out of purchasing an item because it wasn’t on sale — even if they really wanted it. And roughly a quarter say this happens all the time.

These consumers are most likely to look for a better price at another retailer or wait until the item is discounted before purchasing it. That would explain why nearly half of shoppers say they won’t buy something unless it’s on sale, especially important to keep in mind during a season of generous promotions across the entire industry.

The art of swaying the consumer

On the flip side, over four in 10 consumers say that they can’t resist making a purchase when something is on sale. To help drive this type of impulse shopping, retailers have been promoting flash sales and lightening deals on hot items. This was a particular success when, prior to Amazon’s Prime Day, brands could start pushing out a series of lightening deals to create awareness and encourage consumer shopping plans.

In even better for news retailers, consumers say they are willing to be persuaded to make full-price purchases: 38 percent reported they could be convinced if the item is already a fair price and three in 10 said the same if it’s a unique item and they can’t find it anywhere else. Tapping into this insight, some retailers offer notifications when inventory runs low, enticing shoppers to hurry up and buy — even at full price.

Consumers will be eager to steal the best deals over Thanksgiving weekend

We’re just a few weeks away from Thanksgiving weekend and shoppers will be eagerly awaiting retailers’ offers. We know how much promotions play a role in a consumer’s path to purchase; next weekend, shoppers will be expecting the deepest discounts: 70 percent say they expect to find the best deals around holidays. And with all the gifts and festive items needed, the winter holidays provide a perfect platform for generous sales. In fact, nearly half of shoppers plan their shopping around specific sale events like Black Friday. Brands like Target and Best Buy have already released a preview of their sales, so consumers can get a head start mapping out their shopping plans.

For more about retail sales and promotions, check out the infographic.