NRF: Consumers Getting a Head Start on Holiday Shopping, Purchasing More Gift Cards

This year's holiday shopping season will be six days shorter than last year's, making it the shortest holiday season since 2002. With fewer days to get those gifts under the tree, it's a good thing that more than half of Americans have already started their holiday shopping, according to a new report by the National Retail Federation.

The new report shows that nearly 54 percent of those surveyed have already started building their holiday gift stash. That leaves 46 percent of shoppers who have yet to get their shopping started, the smallest percentage in the history of the survey, which was conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.

"Shopping early has become a very real trend with consumers today as they look for ways to spread out their budget, and retailers have answered their call with attractive holiday offerings as early as October," said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

A previously-released survey by Google indicated that as many as 30 percent of the people surveyed said they were planning to start their holiday shopping before Halloween. Retailers, too, were eager to get a head start this year, with six out of 10 reporting they were well into holiday promotions before the end of October. 

Shoppers are planning to spend slightly less this year, which could prompt them to start earlier to comparison shop and get the best deals. Smaller budgets also mean that consumers may be spreading out their shopping list to avoid a drastic hit to November and December paychecks.

A separate NRF survey also found that customers are planning to purchase a record number of gift cards this year compared to years past. Eight in 10 shoppers said they plan to spend an average of $163.16 collectively on gift cards during the holiday season. The total is a 4% increase of the $156.86 shoppers spent last year and the highest total in the survey's 11-year history.

It's no surprise that department stores (40.3 percent) and restaurants (34.2 percent) will be the top gift card choices, but coming in third and fourth place are coffee shop and gas station cards, at 19 percent and 12 percent respectively. Such high numbers in these categories are another indication that customers are being conservative in their holiday shopping and choosing practical gift-giving items that are "needs" versus "wants."

For more see:
This National Retail Federation report
This WWD article
This Chain Store Age article

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