Half of Holiday Shoppers Have Already Started

For retailers, the shopping season has expanded beyond the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

November 22, 2019

WASHINGTON—More than half of consumers have already started their holiday shopping and nearly a quarter of purchases have already been made, according to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. “This is further evidence that the holiday season has grown far beyond the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay, in a press release. “Thanksgiving is still a hallmark of the season, and there’s billions of dollars in shopping still to come. But many consumers have already been shopping for weeks, and retailers are increasingly adapting to that.”

The survey found 56% of consumers asked during the first week of November had already begun their holiday shopping, about the same as the past few years. That was up from 48% who had already started at the same point a decade ago. On average, consumers had completed 24% of their shopping, the highest level in the history of the survey and up from 16% in 2009. Only 4% had finished shopping.

Those numbers are even higher than an earlier NRF survey that found 39% of holiday shoppers planned to start before November this year, saying they wanted to spread out their budgets and avoid both crowds and last-minute stress. Another 43% planned to start in November, and only 18% said they would wait until December.

“Consumers don’t wait for Thanksgiving or Black Friday anymore and neither do retailers,” said Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist. “Retailers responded this year by offering promotions earlier than ever, with some rolling out holiday deals even before Halloween.”

Consumers plan to purchase three or four gift cards on average at an average $47 per card for a total of $27.5 billion. The top reasons for giving a gift card are that it allows the recipient to choose their own gift (46%) and is easier and faster than choosing a traditional gift (29%). Restaurant cards are the most popular, chosen by 35%, followed by those for department stores (30%), coffee shops (23%), Visa/Mastercard/American Express/Discover (also 23%) and entertainment such as movies or music (18%).