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Procrastinators rush to meet holiday deadline

More than 40 percent of holiday shoppers surveyed expect to finish their holiday gift shopping by today, but the biggest procrastinators will still be buying gifts through Christmas Eve, according to the annual consumer sentiment survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. 

“Having made their lists and checked them twice, holiday shoppers have been out in full force these last few weeks, but many are still waiting to complete their shopping this weekend,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers will use every opportunity to see that shoppers have a great experience in these final few days. Whether looking for competitive prices, festive in-store events or last-minute online shipping deals, retailers are ready to deliver.”

The survey found that 34 percent of holiday shoppers purchased their last gift by Tuesday. A total of 44 percent expected to be done by the end of today, with 24 percent planning to make their last purchases Saturday or Sunday and 7 percent saying they will still be shopping on Christmas Eve. And 4 percent said their final gifts wouldn’t be bought until after Christmas.

The survey found that 56 percent of holiday shoppers – about 134 million people, up from 126 million last year – plan to shop this weekend on “Super Saturday,” the last Saturday before Christmas.

Of consumers who had completed half or less of their shopping, 44 percent said they were still deciding what to buy, up from 42 percent last year. Twenty-seven percent were waiting for family members to share their requests while 26 percent cited other financial priorities, 25 percent were too busy with other activities and 22 percent admitted being procrastinators.

As of December 12, consumers still shopping planned to make their remaining purchases online (51 percent), at department stores (41 percent), discount stores (25 percent), apparel stores (21 percent), electronics stores (17 percent), local/small businesses (14 percent) and grocery stores (13 percent).

“Last-minute shoppers are looking forward to the weekend this year to finalize their shopping plans before the big day,” Prosper Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said. “They are making sure to research everything from shipping deadlines to the best deals. Some are already looking to the days after Christmas to find treasures in the clearance bins.”

The survey found 53 percent of consumers have already purchased clothing as gifts; 38 percent gift cards; 37 percent toys; 32 percent video games, books, and movies; 24 percent food or candy and 23 percent electronics or computer-related accessories. 

Gifts of experience such as a cooking class, spa treatment, membership for a wine club or tickets to a sporting event have continued to be popular, with 39 percent of consumers hoping to receive an experience gift and 23 percent planning to give one.

When asked about receiving gift cards this holiday season, 42 percent of people surveyed said they would wait for a good sale to maximize the value of the cards, and an equal split of consumers (20 percent) said they would use them as quickly as possible or save them for a rainy day. 

For consumers who miss next week’s Christmas deadline, 50 percent plan to take advantage of after-Christmas sales in stores, and 45 percent plan to do the same online. 

The week immediately following Christmas (December 26 - January 1), is an attractive time for many holiday shoppers. More than half (51 percent) said they will shop during that period to take advantage of post-holiday sales, with 27 percent saying they would do so to use gift cards they receive and 17 percent to return or exchange unwanted gifts.

The survey, which asked 6,978 consumers about holiday shopping plans, was conducted December 3-12 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Originally posted Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018