For optimal user experience, please upgrade your browser.
Online holiday shopping
Consumer Trends
Retailers in for a Very Digital Holiday Season, According to NRF Survey
For immediate release
October 20, 2015

Floating Widget

Floating Share Widget

(202) 783-7971
(855) NRF-Press

Top findings of consumers surveyed:

  • Average spending per person reaches $805.65, comparable with spending in 2014 holiday season ($802.45).
  • Spending on gifts for family members will total $462.95, up from $458.75 last year, and a survey high.
  • Almost half of holiday shopping, consisting of browsing and buying, will be done online: average consumers say 46 percent of their shopping (both browsing and buying) this holiday season will be conducted online, up from 44 percent last year.
  • 21.4 percent of smartphone owners will use their device to purchase holiday merchandise this year, the highest seen since NRF first asked in 2011.
  • Nearly half (46.7%) said free shipping/shipping promotions are important factors in their decision on where to shop.
  • 55.8 percent of holiday shoppers will splurge on themselves and/or others for non-gift items, and will spend an average of $131.59, up from $126.37 last year. ​

"We expect consumers will tackle their holiday shopping lists with a healthy dose of optimism, tempered by a hint of caution."
NRF President and CEO
Matthew Shay

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for millions of Americans and this year, holiday shoppers have already added their family members to the ‘nice list.’” According to the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Consumer Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, consumers celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah and/or Kwanzaa will spend an average of $805.65 on food items, decorations, gifts and more over the holiday season, the highest amount in the survey’s 14-year history and in line with last year’s $802.45. Spending on gifts for family members will total $462.95, up from $458.75 last year and also a survey high.    

“Despite the challenges that still exist in our economy, it looks as if consumers are eager to celebrate the holidays with friends and family this year,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “We expect consumers will tackle their holiday shopping lists with a healthy dose of optimism, tempered by a hint of caution as they look for ways to find the perfect, practical gift.”

“We continue to see positive momentum in retail sales growth, giving us reason to believe consumers will show up this holiday season as they look to take advantage of all of retailers’ promotional offerings,” continued Shay. “In an effort to attract all shoppers – from the extremely price sensitive to the online millennial, retailers will be offering exclusive incentives, low prices, price-matching, top toys and everyone’s favorite - free shipping and buy online pick up in store offers.” 

Those celebrating the holidays will also spend on gifts for friends ($77.85), co-workers ($25.95) and others, such as pets and babysitters ($28.05). Average spending on decorations will reach $53.02, and $28.67 on greeting cards and postage; shoppers will also spend an average of $107.80 on food.

Buy online pick up in store, free shipping high on busy shoppers' lists

Savvy holiday shoppers will shop around to find the perfect gift this year with most saying they will shop at discount (55.9%) and department stores (55.6%), and online (52.9%). Two in five (44.1%) will shop at grocery stores and one-third (33.4%) will shop at clothing or accessory stores.

Of those who plan to shop online, 46.5 percent say they will take advantage of retailers’ buy online pick up in store or ship-to-store options. Free shipping seems to be the most anticipated promotion however: 93.1 percent of online shoppers say they will use a free shipping offer when shopping for holiday merchandise.

Millennial online shoppers are most likely to take advantage of the instant gratification option when it comes to shipping and fulfillment: According to the survey, 16.7 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 15.9 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds will use a same-day delivery option when buying gifts, décor and other holiday items, compared to just 7.8 percent of the rest of the population.

“The surprise factor isn’t the numbers surrounding Millennials and their planned use of retailers’ innovative digital offerings, it’s the power that this cohort of adults has when it comes to influencing retailers to speak their language,” said Prosper’s Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “Young adults and Millennials are incredibly savvy when it comes to finding the right gift at the right price at the right place.”

Almost half of holiday shopping - buying and browsing - will be done online

More of shoppers’ time this holiday season will be spent browsing and buying online compared to last year — and the 10 years NRF has been tracking this. The survey found nearly half (46.1%) of holiday shopping will be conducted online, up from 44.4 percent last year and the highest recorded since NRF first asked in 2006.

High level of mobile engagement among holiday shoppers is expected

There’s no question that consumers have adopted mobile technologies into their way of life. And when it comes to the holiday season, many smartphone and tablet owners already have big plans for their handheld devices. The survey found that 21.4 percent of smartphone owners will use their device to purchase holiday merchandise this year, the highest seen since NRF first asked in 2011. Additionally, more will use their smartphone to research products (37.9% vs. 35.8% last year) and to look for a way to connect with a retail store by looking up retailer information like store hours and directions (28.4% vs. 26.9% last year). One in five (20.3%) will specifically use their smartphone to look up product availability in a store.

Tablet owners plan to be just as mobile-active. Nearly half (47.5%) will use their device to research products and 34.5 percent will use their tablet to make a holiday purchase of some kind, similar to last year (33%); nearly one-quarter (23.5%) will check for in-store availability from their tablet. 

One for you, two for me: “self-gifting” spending up

In addition to shopping for gifts for their loved ones, holiday shoppers will take advantage of discounts to treat themselves and/or their family members to a non-gift item. The survey found 55.8 percent will splurge on themselves and/or others for non-gift items, and will spend an average of $131.59, up from $126.37 last year.

Proof holiday early birds exist

For the 14th year in a row, NRF’s holiday spending survey found that approximately 40 percent of holiday shoppers say they begin their holiday shopping before Halloween. Another 41.5 percent say they begin their holiday shopping in November, and 18.7 will begin sometime in December.

When asked why they begin shopping early, most of those that responded that they shop before or in September or October say it’s to spread out their budget (61.4%). Another 48 percent say they want to avoid the November and December crowds and 46 percent do so to avoid the stress of last-minute shopping.

Sales and discounts, quality of merchandise tops for holiday shoppers

When asked which factors are the most important in their decision on where to shop during the holiday season, nearly three-quarters (73.1%) said sales or price discounts are a factor, and six in 10 (60.7%) said quality of merchandise. Additionally, 58.6 percent said selection of merchandise and two in five (45.3%) said a convenient location helped them decide.

And when it comes to online shopping, 46.7 percent said free shipping/shipping promotions are important factors in their decision on where to shop, and nearly three in 10 (28.3%) responded that easy-to-use websites or mobile sites were important to them.

Additionally, 38 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds say that helpful, knowledgeable customer service is an important factor when it comes to deciding where to shop, compared to 28.4 percent of other adults. And one in 10 (10.3%) 18- to 24-year-olds say layaway services are important in their destination decision. 

Gift cards maintain their spot at top of wish lists

Those struggling with finding the perfect gift this year should look no further than a retailer’s gift card section. According to the survey, nearly six in 10 (58.8%) consumers celebrating the holidays say they would like to receive gift cards as a gift, making this the ninth year in a row that gift cards have topped the list of most requested gift items. Close behind is clothing or clothing accessories (52.2%) and books, CDs, DVDs and video games (40.5%) — though the latter is the lowest percentage seen since NRF started asking.

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 7,276 consumers and was conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics, October 5-13, 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

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing 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. NRF’s This is Retail campaign highlights the industry’s opportunities for life-long careers, how retailers strengthen communities, and the critical role that retail plays in driving innovation. nrf.com

###

Holiday Trends
NRF's 2015 Holiday Survival Kit

NRF's annual overview of holiday trends and expectations serves as a guide for reporters and retailers, offering historical information on holiday sales, employment data and consumer trends.

Featured News

Consumer Trends
What’s grabbing the attention of holiday procrastinators.