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Early Sales Could Ignite Jump on Holiday Shopping for Many

Early Sales Could Ignite Jump on Holiday Shopping for Many

Story Highlights

  • Young adults especially open to starting earlier if deals start sooner
  • Nearly all holiday shoppers plan to purchase some gifts online
  • 33% of shoppers will do some shopping using social media platforms

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As trends this year shift toward retailers launching holiday sales, promotions and deals earlier, more than one in four holiday shoppers (28%) would consider starting their shopping earlier than usual.

Young adults are especially open to being persuaded to start sooner if the holiday deals were rolled out earlier. Nearly half of young adult holiday shoppers, 48%, say they would definitely or probably start earlier. This emphasizes the potential impact of retailers' early initiatives on consumer decision-making, especially young adults, and the need to cater to evolving customer preferences.


Asked more generally when they planned to start shopping this year, 41% of U.S. holiday shoppers intend to start their shopping before November, while 59% will wait until November or December. These results are based on the new Shopify-Gallup Holiday Shopper Pulse, conducted Sept. 1-14 by web using Gallup’s probability-based panel.

The earlier shoppers include 24% who had already started or planned to start shopping in September and 17% who said they planned to start in October. Those shoppers holding off longer include 39% who will begin in November and 20% waiting until December.


Nearly a third of women, 29%, had already started shopping or planned to in September. That compares with 18% of men who planned to start that early. In contrast, men are more likely to hold off until much later in the season, with 27% saying they will start shopping in December, more than twice the percentage of women (13%) who will wait that long.

Online Holiday Shopping Nearly Ubiquitous; Some Using Social Media to Shop

Virtually all holiday shoppers, 93%, will buy at least some gifts online this year, including almost half who will purchase most (41%) or all (6%) of their holiday gifts from online retailers.


Majorities of three groups of shoppers plan to rely on online shopping for most of their gifts -- upper-income consumers (those whose annual household income exceeds $100,000, 55%), adults aged 30 to 49 years old (55%) and parents of young children (54%).

In addition to the familiar shopping websites, today’s online shoppers can buy products directly on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok. Asked if they will do any of their shopping through social media platforms, one-third of holiday shoppers, including almost half of young adults (48%), expect to do at least "a little of it" on these platforms.


Order Fulfillment, Supporting Local Businesses Key to Decision-Making

Today, shoppers have many options for buying holiday gifts, including large or small brick-and-mortar stores, online stores, and many different specific retailers within those categories. When choosing between two similar products or choosing where to buy the same product, shoppers say order fulfillment considerations like free shipping or getting the product the same day it’s purchased are the most compelling differentiator. Supporting small or local businesses is the second top reason influencing shoppers to purchase from one retailer over another, followed by promotions, deals or rewards and positive product reviews.


For the most part, the same considerations matter to all types of holiday shoppers. However, limited-time discounts are more motivating to younger holiday shoppers than they are for other groups. Older shoppers are more likely than younger ones to say supporting small or local businesses is a key factor in their decision-making.

Holiday Shoppers Expect to Spend Same Amount This Year as Last Year

In a separate telephone poll that ran concurrently, a 55% majority of holiday shoppers say they expect to spend about the same amount on holiday gifts this year as last year, while 26% indicate they will spend less and 19% more. Younger shoppers aged 18 to 29 are more likely than those in older age groups to say they intend to spend more this year on gifts. While 41% of younger shoppers say their spending will be the same as last year, nearly as many, 37%, think they will spend more, while 22% expect to spend less.

Bottom Line

While the weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday includes the most notable shopping days of the holiday season, many shoppers will have begun their gift-buying long before then. Given that a significant percentage of holiday shoppers plan to shop early, it is worthwhile for retailers to offer holiday deals and promotions long before the traditional start of the season in late November. This is especially the case if they want to capture the young adult market; younger shoppers are most inclined to say they are likely to start holiday shopping earlier if they see the promotions and deals earlier. Younger shoppers are also the subgroup most inclined to say they will increase their holiday shopping compared with last year.

U.S. consumers’ comfort with online shopping is evident in that 93% of holiday shoppers will buy at least some gifts online, including about half (47%) who will buy all or most of their gifts online. One-third of holiday shoppers (33%), and nearly half of young adults (48%), say they will buy gifts through social media platforms originally designed for sharing messages and pictures with friends or family members, underscoring the evolution of online shopping across many channels.

This article is the first in a series reporting on holiday shopping intentions as measured in the Shopify-Gallup Holiday Shopper Pulse survey.

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