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December Holiday Rush for Half of U.S. Shoppers

December Holiday Rush for Half of U.S. Shoppers

Story Highlights

  • 16% will buy all gifts in December, 33% will buy most this month
  • Younger shoppers, men more likely to delay shopping
  • About half of shoppers looking to buy personalized gift or an experience

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Although holiday sales and shopping start well before the official beginning of the holiday season, December still brings a rush of holiday shopping. About half (49%) say they will do all or most of their holiday shopping this month, and fully nine in 10 will buy at least some gifts in December.

Overall, 16% of holiday shoppers say they will do “all” of their holiday shopping in December, 33% will do “most” of it, and 42% will do “some” of it. Only 8% of those surveyed said they would be finished with their holiday shopping before December began.


These results are based on the Nov. 1-14 Shopify-Gallup Holiday Shopper Pulse, conducted among 1,888 members of Gallup’s nationally representative online panel.

Younger shoppers are inclined to continue to shop later in the holiday season, while the majority of older shoppers expect to have most of their buying done before then. Specifically, 53% of shoppers under age 50 -- including exactly half of those under 30 -- will do all or most of their shopping in December, compared with 44% of shoppers aged 50 and older.

Shoppers aged 65 and older are the most likely subgroup to have finished their shopping before December began, with 13% saying they did not plan to make any holiday purchases in December.


Men are also more inclined than women to wait -- 54% of men and 43% of women will do all or most of their holiday shopping in the final month of the season. Men are nearly twice as likely as women -- 21% to 11% -- to say they will do all of their holiday shopping in December.


Finances Key to Younger Shoppers’ Delay; Older Shoppers Seek Right Gifts

Younger and older December holiday shoppers have different reasons for shopping in the final stretch of the holiday season. For December holiday shoppers under age 50, it often comes down to needing more money to buy gifts, which is the top reason among both 18- to 29- and 30- to 49-year-old holiday shoppers. Younger December shoppers are also more likely than other groups still shopping in December to say they procrastinate.

In contrast, older (those aged 50 to 64 and 65 and older) December shoppers’ top reason for shopping this month is because they are taking time to find the right gifts. Older shoppers are also more likely than younger shoppers to indicate they are waiting for better prices on gifts they plan to buy.

Holiday shoppers 65 and older are the most inclined of all groups to say they prefer to shop in the month when the holidays fall.


Procrastinating a Big Factor For Men Who Do Holiday Shopping in December

Men who will do at least some holiday shopping in December are equally likely to say the most important reason for doing so is to find the right gift (20%) or because they procrastinate (20%). However, among the smaller subset of men who will wait until December to start their holiday shopping, the percentage who say it is mostly because they procrastinate balloons to 31%, while just 7% of these late starters say it is because they are looking for the right gift (23% say it is because they prefer shopping in the month when the holidays fall).

Women who will do at least some shopping in December tend to mention financial constraints -- 28% say their main reason for shopping in December is because they are saving or need to get paid. Nearly as many, 26%, say they are searching for the right gift. Only 10% of female December holiday shoppers say they are procrastinating.


Holiday Shoppers More Likely to Visit Stores in December

The month of December brings more shoppers into retail stores than at other times of the year. Given a choice, the majority of holiday shoppers, 56%, say they are more likely to shop in person at physical retail stores in December than in other months.


These results are similar across key demographic groups, including by gender, age, income, marital status and parental status. Younger adults between ages 18 and 29 are most likely to say they shop in person more often in December than in other months (60%).

Some Shoppers Thinking Outside the Box With Gifts

According to a question asking if holiday shoppers plan to buy any of six personalized or experience-based gifts, nearly half of shoppers indicate they will purchase at least one of them.

  • The most common of these are personalized gifts, such as an engraved item or a personalized book, which 21% of shoppers indicate they will buy.
  • Seventeen percent will purchase a self-care or wellness item, such as a spa gift card or meditation app.
  • Fifteen percent plan to give an in-person experience, such as a cooking class or concert tickets, while 11% are planning to buy a travel experience (or partially pay for one).
  • Fourteen percent of holiday shoppers are looking at purchasing a curated gift basket for someone on their list, and 6% plan to buy a monthly or recurring gift box subscription.

Younger holiday shoppers are far more likely than older shoppers, particularly seniors, to purchase these types of gifts. Whereas majorities of adults under age 30 (58%) and aged 30 to 49 (54%) plan to buy personalized gifts or experiences as holiday gifts, less than half of holiday shoppers aged 50 to 64 (45%), and less than a third of shoppers 65 and older (29%), will.

Among the youngest holiday shoppers (those under 30), 38% plan to give a personalized item as a gift, 23% a wellness or self-care item, 18% a curated gift basket and 15% an in-person experience.

To the extent that older shoppers will give a personalized gift, it is most likely to be a curated gift basket, something 17% of 50- to 64-year-olds and 10% of those 65 and older plan to give this year.


Bottom Line

While changing norms and technology may facilitate earlier holiday shopping than in the past, the vast majority of U.S. holiday shoppers will still be busy shopping this month, including 16% who now say they will do all of their holiday shopping in December. Men and younger adults will disproportionately be shopping in December. For many, the delays are for practical reasons like needing money to pay for the gifts, while others may be pondering the perfect gift for those on their lists. But many late shoppers simply say they are procrastinating.

Stores can expect more foot traffic than in other months, as the majority of holiday shoppers say they are more likely to shop in stores in December. Prior Shopify-Gallup data indicate that most holiday shoppers will buy at least some of their gifts online, with about half buying most of their gifts online.

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