Procrastination nation: holiday shoppers rushing to meet deadline

“Even though many consumers got a head start with holiday shopping early in the season, millions more are leaving their gift buying to the last minute and beyond.”

Matthew Shay
NRF President and CEO

WASHINGTON – Just over half of U.S. adults surveyed expect to finish their holiday gift shopping by today, but others will still be buying gifts on Christmas Eve — and some will miss the deadline altogether. That’s according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

“Even though many consumers got a head start with holiday shopping early in the season, millions more are leaving their gift buying to the last minute and beyond,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Stores will be packed the next few days as consumers rush to complete their shopping, and anybody ordering online at this point should probably choose in-store pickup as their delivery option.”

The survey found that only 12 percent of consumers had finished their holiday shopping as of December 12, with shoppers having completed an average of only 61 percent. A total of 55 percent expected to be done purchasing gifts by today, with 6 percent saying they will still be shopping Sunday and 5 percent saying their final gifts won’t be bought until after Christmas.

The survey found that 53 percent of consumers — about 126 million people — plan to shop this weekend on “Super Saturday,” the last Saturday before Christmas.

Of consumers who had completed half or less of their shopping, 42 percent said they were still deciding what to buy. Waiting for requests, other financial priorities and being too busy with other activities were each cited by 26 percent for the delay.

As of December 12, last-minute shoppers planned to purchase their gifts online (51 percent), at department stores (41 percent), discount stores (26 percent), clothing or accessories stores (21 percent), electronics stores (18 percent), local/small businesses (14 percent) and grocery/supermarket stores (14 percent).


“Similar to what we saw over Thanksgiving weekend, consumers are leveraging their smartphones to guide them on their final purchases for the holidays,” Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said. “Retailers this year have needed to offer great deals online and encourage young people making purchases through their smartphones to take advantage of offerings such as buy online and pick up in store.”

The survey found 54 percent of consumers purchased clothing or clothing accessories, 39 percent toys, 39 percent gift cards, 35 percent books, movies and other media, 25 percent consumer electronics or computer-related accessories and 25 percent food or candy. 


Among consumers receiving gift cards, 41 percent say they will wait for a good sale to maximize the value of the card but 21 percent will use their cards as quickly as possible and 20 percent will save them for a rainy day.

For consumers who miss this weekend’s deadline, 47 percent plan to take advantage of after-Christmas sales in store, and 46 percent say they’ll plan to do the same online.

The survey, which asked 7,212 consumers about holiday shopping plans, was conducted December 4 -12 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

About Prosper Insights & Analytics
Prosper Insights & Analytics is a global leader in consumer intent data serving the financial services, marketing technology, and retail industries. We provide global authoritative market information on US and China consumers via curated insights and analytics. By integrating a variety of data including economic, behavioral and attitudinal data, Prosper helps companies accurately predict consumers’ future behavior to help identify market behaviors, optimize marketing efforts, and improve the effectiveness of demand generation campaigns.

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.