NRF: Holiday shopping season is well underway

Marianne Wilson
Marianne Wilson profile picture
holiday shoppers

With Black Friday a week away, more than half of consumers have already started their holiday shopping and nearly a quarter of purchases have already been made.

Fifty-six percent of consumers asked during the first week of November had already begun their holiday shopping, about the same as the past few years but up from 48% a decade ago, according to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. On average, consumers had completed 24% of their shopping, the highest level in the history of the survey. 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. Only 18% said they would wait until December.

There are only 26 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, down six days from last year and the shortest number possible, but NRF does not expect that to make a difference in spending given the number of people who begin shopping earlier.

NRF has forecast that sales during November and December will increase between 3.8% and 4.2% this year over 2018, totaling between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. Similar to recent years, clothing and accessories are the top gift category this year, purchased by 58% of those surveyed, followed by gift cards (54%), toys (39%), books/music/movies/video games (37%) and food/candy (32%).
Barbie remains the top toy for girls this year, followed by dolls, LOL Surprise dolls, American Girl items and Lego. For boys, Lego tops the list followed by cars and trucks, Hot Wheels, video games and Paw Patrol.

Credit cards remain the top form of payment at 42%, followed by debit cards (37%) and cash (19%). Forty-four percent of holiday shoppers plan to use alternative payment systems, with 32%  saying they will use PayPal, 10% Apple Pay, 7% Google Pay, and 5% each Samsung Pay and Venmo.