Americans Are Setting Holiday Spending Records in Their Haste to Find the Perfect Gift

Holiday Spending 2015 Infographic

When the Gallup organization released its annual survey of American’s intended holiday spending last month, it found that U.S. adults were expected to spend, on average, more than $800 on gifts for friends and family. That number is higher than any November since 2007.1

From Black Friday to Christmas Eve, Americans search high and low for that one perfect gift that will make the holidays special for loved ones. This year, they are shopping with “cautious optimism” about the economy.2 Still finding the one gift that will stand out from all the rest remains a challenge for most.

This holiday season, we’re seeing some trends continuing to gain strength with new ones emerging:

1. Online shopping is still strong. This trend continues to grow in popularity among American consumers. Nearly half of all holiday shopping – both browsing and buying – will take place online. It’s expected that $105 billion will be spent online for gifts, holiday décor and food, and 21.4% of shoppers will use their smartphones to make their purchases. The National Retail Federation (NRF) says this is the highest percentage seen since if first asked the question on its 2011 annual survey.3

2. The gift card is another trend that seems to have staying power. Although the percentage of holiday shoppers who told the NRF they’ll be giving gift cards this year is down slightly from last year – 56.3% vs. 60% – gift cards remain the most popular gift to give. In fact, “overall spending on gift cards during the holidays” increased by 83% from 2003 to 2014.3

3. A new gift category has emerged as a growing trend. Called “experiential gifts,” these presents are ones that you experience, such as travel/vacations or entertaining/dining. This year, 12% of all gifts given will be experiential. Millennials – adults under age 35 – are the ones largely responsible for this trend.2 In a recent PWC survey, millennial respondents said “a great holiday gift would be getting together for dinner or a show with friends or taking a ski trip with family.”4

4. Millennials, 75 million strong, are this holiday season’s (and for many more to come) “it” generation. Adults ages 18-34 are expected to spend a whopping $63 billion this year, and 47% percent expect to spend more this year than they did last year. Of all the generations, millennials are the most optimistic this holiday season. They are “digitally savvy and fiercely brand loyal.” Millennials are on the lookout for gifts that bring new experiences. Nearly 60% of them spent some part of Thanksgiving day online shopping for gifts. Finally, millennials are expected to spend “double the proportion of their overall holiday budget on themselves – 24% millennials vs. 15% for those 35 and older.”2

5. Standard free shipping is the most sought-after shopping trend of the season. Holiday shoppers – 83% of them – said that the offer of free standard shipping would make it very likely they’d buy, and 64% of retailers heard them and are offering free shipping this year.2

1 Lydia Saad. “Americans Plan on Spending a lot more this Christmas. Gallup.

2 “PWC 2015 Holiday Outlook: Millennials matter; experience is essential.” October 2015.

3 Kathy Grannis Allen. “Retailers in for a very digital holiday season, according to NRF survey.” National Retail Federation survey.

4 Tonya Garcia. “This holiday season, it’s all about income and age, says PwC.” MarketWatch. Oct. 7, 2015.