57 percent of holiday shoppers already making dents in their lists

It’s officially the most wonderful time of the year and holiday shoppers wasted no time jumping on exclusive holiday offerings from retailers thus far. According to the National Retail Federation’s Consumer Holiday Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, 56.6 percent of those celebrating the holidays had already started shopping by early November, up from 54.4 percent last year and 16 percent from the 49 percent who had started by this time in 2008, the first time NRF asked the question. This also marks the highest percentage seen in that timeframe.  

“Thanksgiving weekend shopping has evolved tremendously over the past few years and can no longer be seen as the ‘start’ of the holiday season, though there’s no question it’s still important to millions of holiday shoppers and retailers of all shapes and sizes,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “There is a real sea change happening in retail when it comes to the how, when, where, and why of holiday shopping. Consumers today are looking for great prices and value-add promotions earlier than ever before, and retailers have answered these demands in several different ways already this holiday season.”

“That said, many of the season’s best deals are yet to come, meaning there’s still plenty of shopping to be done over Thanksgiving weekend and in December when shipping promotions begin to ramp up. I expect we’ll see shifts all season long as it relates to shopping patterns,” continued Shay.

When breaking out the amount of shopping that’s been done by age group, 25 – 44 year olds have gotten out of the gates early. Specifically, 64.9 percent of 25-34 year olds and 62.1 percent of 35-44 year olds say they have already started shopping. Additionally, nearly six in 10 (58.4%) women have already started checking off their holiday lists, compared to 54.6 percent of men.

“While there are many ‘Type A’ holiday shoppers who love to get an early start on their wish lists, it’s also likely some of the early shopping we’ve seen has been in the form of ‘self-gifting,’ and there’s no question millennials love treating themselves to something when the price is right,” said Prosper’s Pam Goodfellow. “And, with Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday still to come, holiday shoppers of all ages are still in for a treat when it comes to unbeatable promotions.” 

When it comes to what types of gifts people are planning to buy this holiday season, six in 10 (60.3%) will purchase apparel or clothing accessories. Another 46.2 percent said they will purchase books, CDs, DVDs and/or video games, and 41.2 percent said they will buy toys. One in five will buy jewelry (21.8%) and 30.5 percent will buy food and/or candy. Interestingly, 56.3 percent say they will buy gift cards, down from 60 percent last year, even though gift cards remain the most requested gift item among holiday shoppers.

NRF for the first time asked consumers how they would “grade” retailers’ promotions seen so far this holiday season and the survey found 40.1 percent rank them as excellent or good, while another 34.8 percent rank them as average. Millennials are much more positive when it comes to retailers’ promotions: 58.9 percent of 18-24 year olds and 54.5 percent of 25-34 year olds agree retailers’ deals have either been excellent or good.

Traditional methods of advertising still resonate with consumers when it comes to sparking ideas for holiday gifts, however online searches and social media both serve as preferred inspiration channels for shoppers. According to the survey, 46.9% percent will use an online search to find their gifts, and more 35.4 percent of those surveyed will look for inspiration for holiday gifts through advertising circulars. Additionally, 30 percent will look to catalogs and 31 percent will use TV ads for inspiration. When it comes to social media, Facebook is the most likely place shoppers would look for inspiration (13%), though Pinterest will also be a key location for holiday shoppers (8.8%).

Holiday shoppers this year say they will use their debit card the most when paying for gifts (39%), similar to last year’s 38.4 percent, and another 38.2 percent will use their credit card, the same as last year. One in five (20.2%) will pay for gifts with cash and 2.5 percent will use a check. NRF also asked about shoppers’ planned use of PayPal in addition to traditional spending methods, and 55.1 percent of those surveyed say they will or may use PayPal to pay for holiday gifts. 

About the Survey

The NRF 2015 Holiday Consumer Spending Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey polled 7,172 consumers and was conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics, November 3-10, 2015. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Prosper Insights and Analytics delivers executives timely, consumer-centric insights from multiple sources. As a comprehensive resource of information, Prosper represents the voice of the consumer and provides knowledge to marketers regarding consumer views on the economy, personal finance, retail, lifestyle, media and domestic and world issues. www.ProsperDiscovery.com

About NRF

The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association. Based in Washington, D.C., NRF represents discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is the nation’s largest private-sector employer, supporting one in four U.S. jobs — 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy.

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