Poll: 32 million adults have started shopping for the holidays

September 23rd, 2015

It’s still summer, but put a bow on 5 million ultra-early birds: They’re already done

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If you’re perusing sale fliers and websites for winter holiday gifts while wearing T-shirts and shorts, you’re not alone. The calendar still says summer, but millions of Americans have already started — and a few have even finished — their holiday shopping.

A scientific poll of 1,004 U.S. adults commissioned by CreditCards.com found that 14 percent of consumers — about 32 million adults based on U.S. Census estimates — have begun holiday shopping. And 2 percent, or about 4.6 million, are ultra-early birds: They’re already done.

To be sure, huge swathes of the American public steadfastly refuse to let holiday shopping slip into summer, or even fall. More than half of us (55 percent of holiday shoppers) won’t finish until sometime in December. One in 5 won’t be done until Christmas Eve.

But for many, holiday shopping keeps creeping earlier into the year. When asked whether they’d be starting holiday shopping earlier or later this year, 15 percent of consumers said they’d start earlier, compared to just 4 percent saying they would start later, according to the survey (see “Survey methodology“).

Poll findings
Here’s what else the poll uncovered about early shoppers:

  • Online shoppers in particular have gotten a holiday head start, as 18 percent of respondents who said they mainly shop online have begun filling their digital carts, compared to 14 percent of those who prefer in-store shopping.
  • Grandma and Grandpa are furthest ahead of the holiday crowds, as 7 percent of consumers over the age of 65 say they have already finished holiday shopping. No other age group had more than 1 percent say they’re all done.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 shoppers (23 percent) say they will finish holiday shopping by the end of November.

Early birds want to save time, money
Overall, Americans are expected to spend approximately $886 billion on holiday shopping this year, according to eMarketer. For most of us, that’s still off in the future: 80 percent of consumers haven’t started holiday shopping yet. However, those already buying holiday goodies are setting themselves up for a more relaxed holiday season — and may save some time and money along the way.

HOW CONSUMERS PLAN TO SHOP
Asked to name their main method of holiday shopping this year, poll respondents said:
Percent Method
60% In person at retail stores
23% Online, using a desktop or laptop computer
7% Online, using a mobile device such as a cellphone or tablet
2% From mail order catalogs
7% Other, don’t know or refused
Source: CreditCards.com survey of 940 U.S. adults who said they planned to shop for the holidays. Margin of error plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. See survey methodology.

“Last-minute shoppers are not able to do the comparison shopping the early shoppers can do,” said Kathleen Gurney, CEO of Financial Psychology Corp.

Who else shops early? The CreditCards.com poll found white respondents are more likely than nonwhites to start holiday shopping early, 16 percent to 9 percent. Parents are also more proactive holiday shoppers, as 20 percent of have begun shopping, compared to only 11 percent of nonparents.


Advertising starts early, too

Retail promotions have shifted at least two weeks earlier over the past five years and holiday promotions often conclude by Thanksgiving, to a 2015 holiday retail trends study conducted by Centro Inc. found.

“What traditionally was held on Black Friday or Cyber Monday is now being held weeks, and even months, before the holidays,” said Andrew Johnson, communications manager for financial counseling organization GreenPath Debt Solutions. “It certainly could be to your advantage to start looking now.”

All those early holiday advertisements may be working, as 23 percent of consumers will finish their holiday shopping by the end of November, according to the CreditCards.com poll.


‘I don’t like to be rushed’

Early holiday shopper Pamela Toler, a writer and historian from Chicago, enjoys reducing holiday costs, but values fewer crowds and less stress even more.

“I don’t like to be rushed, and this way I can enjoy the holiday,” she said.

An excess of leisure time may help explain why those 65 and older may have more presents ready than their children.

“Older people do have the time to think more about these things,” Gurney said. “I just think they are not as overwhelmed by other aspects of life. They have less stress and more joy in doing this now than you will if you wait.”

Starting early helps cushion budgets
Tackling shopping lists well before the holidays can help lessen the financial burden. Melanie DeCarolis, a wine educator from Boston, starts her holiday shopping in early July, wrapping up before the end of August to ensure she can more easily afford presents for all her nieces, nephews and godchildren.

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