Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving has unofficially kicked off the holiday shopping season, but this year many started tackling their gift lists well before the turkey hit the table.
More than half of holiday shoppers, nearly 57 percent, nationwide started buying gifts by early November, according to survey data from the National Retail Federation (NRF) trade group.
That’s up from about 54 percent who had begun shopping that early last year and 49 percent who did in 2008, the first time NRF asked the question.
Shoppers have been eager to take advantage of sales when they see them, according to NRF, even well ahead of the upcoming major shopping days: Black Friday, Small-Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.
“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,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement.
“There is a real sea change happening in retail when it comes to the how, when, where and why of holiday shopping,” he said. “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.”
Getting an early jump on shopping has appealed particularly those ages 25 to 34, of whom 65 percent began shopping in early November, and those 35 to 44, of whom 62 percent did, according to the survey.
The annual NRF survey polled 7,172 people between Nov. 3 and Nov. 10. Prosper Insights & Analytics conducted the survey for the trade group.
Some early shopping likely can be attributed to shoppers buying “gifts” for themselves, Prosper analyst Pam Goodfellow said in a statement, “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.”
Early-bird shopping was split relatively evenly between the sexes: 58 percent of women had already begun early this month, compared with 55 percent of men, NRF found.
This year, for the first time, NRF asked consumers to rate retailers’ promotions. Just more than 40 percent said promotions were excellent or good, while about 35 percent rated them as average.
Though many got an early start, Shay said “many of the season’s best deals are yet to come, meaning there’s still plenty of shopping to be done over Thanksgiving and in December, when shipping promotions begin to ramp up.”
Throughout the holiday shopping season, most (60 percent) plan to buy clothes or clothing accessories; 46 percent of shoppers plan to buy books, CDs, DVDs and video games; and 41 percent are looking for toys. About 21 percent expect to buy jewelry and 31 percent will buy food or candy, NRF found.
About 56 percent of those polled plan to buy gift cards, a decrease from 60 percent last year, though gift cards remain the most requested gift item, according to the survey.
Most shoppers will be reaching for their plastic as they shop this year, with 38 percent planning to use debit cards to pay for gifts and another 38 percent using credit cards. Another 20 percent plan to pay with cash, while 2.5 percent will use checks, NRF found.