57% of holiday shoppers have already begun

Anyone looking for more proof that holiday shopping begins earlier has some new statistics to cite: 56.6 percent of those celebrating the holidays had begun shopping by early November, up from 54.4 percent last year and up further from the 49 percent who had started by this time in 2008, the first time the National Retail Federation asked the question.

It's the highest percentage seen in that timeframe, according to the NRF's Consumer Holiday Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics. Some 21 percent of shoppers began before October, according to a recent Brand Keys survey.

"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."

Younger shoppers are among the busiest early in the season. Nearly 65 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds and 62 percent of 35 to 44-year-olds say they have already started shopping.

"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 Pam Goodfellow, principal analyst and consumer insights director for Prosper. "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."

Hot gift items this year include apparel and accessories (60 percent); books, CD's and DVDs (46 percent); and toys (41 percent). One in five will buy jewelry, and 30.5 percent will spend on food or candy.

And for the first time, the number of shoppers who intend to buy gift cards has declined: 56.3 percent plan to buy cards, down from 60 percent last year, despite gift cards being the most requested gift item, according to NRF.

Thus far in the season, retailers are getting high marks from shoppers when it comes to promotions. Slightly more than 40 percent rank retail promotions as excellent or good, and another 34.8 percent said they were average.

Retailers' attempts to reach millennials with more targeted messaging and promotions appear to be working as well. Nearly 59 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds and 54.5 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds agree retailers' deals have either been excellent or good.

For more:
-See NRF's Consumer Holiday Spending Survey

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