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Whether taking advantage of deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday or shopping all season long, it seems many Americans are planning to splash out on gifts more this year than in years past. New research from Mintel reveals that eight in 10 (79%) Americans plan to spend more or the same amount of money this winter holiday season, with gifting-related purchases filling up shopping bags. The top items shoppers purchase* for the holidays include clothing/footwear (54%), gift cards (45%) and toys/games (43%). Meanwhile, some consumers will be celebrating the winter holidays without the drain on their bank accounts, as some 4% say they plan to celebrate but not spend money on the holidays this year, up from 2% who said the same in 2017.

Dads (54%) are among this years’ top spenders for winter holiday shopping.

When it comes to this years’ big spenders, it seems kids have made the nice list as dads are by far and away the most likely to say they plan to spend more money on the holidays this year (54%)—more than double the 23% of Americans overall who plan to do the same. Other groups who plan to be generous with their wallets include parents of kids aged 6-11 (49%), single parents (44%), men aged 18-34 (44%) and adult iGeneration consumers (aged 18-23) (40%).

With many Americans increasing their spending this year, the upcoming holiday season is expected to see continued growth, with total US retail sales** in November and December estimated to grow 2.3% from the 2017 season to reach $768 billion in 2018.

“Optimistic market factors such as higher consumer confidence and disposable personal income will likely have a positive impact on holiday spending this year, encouraging consumers to increase spending on gifts and other holiday-related purchases. While many plan to spend more or the same when holiday shopping this year, dads are the most likely to agree with the statement. Women tend to be the main gift givers and strategically shop sales year-round, but the holidays are a time when men, including dads and young men, get into the holiday shopping spirit in order to buy gifts for their loved ones. The positive market factors are also giving consumers a boost to spend more or shop for more people, encouraging men to get more involved in the shopping process, “ said Alexis DeSalva, Senior Retail and eCommerce Analyst at Mintel.

Amazon is the holiday shopping destination for all generations

The gap between in-store and online shopping for the holidays is getting smaller and smaller, with nearly the same percentage of winter holiday shoppers planning to do either this year (94% and 91%, respectively). What’s more, the number of shoppers who plan to shop online this year increased five percentage points over those who said the same last year (86%).

Amazon tops the list of places consumers plan to shop for the holidays (73%), ranking ahead of mass merchandisers (70%), department stores (55%) and clothing/footwear stores (51%). With Amazon continuing to have such a strong influence in consumers’ everyday lives, Mintel research shows online shopping has now mainstreamed across age groups. While adult iGeneration shoppers are the most likely (83%) to say they plan to shop on Amazon for the winter holidays, around seven in 10 Millennial (aged 24-41) (74%), Generation X (aged 42-53) (70%) and Baby Boomer (aged 54-72) (69%) shoppers plan to do the same.

With only 31% of winter holiday shoppers saying they prefer to shop in-store during the holidays, online shopping has become consumers’ preferred method for completing their holiday shopping lists. In turn, some online shopping perks have become an expectation with half (47%) of winter holiday shoppers expecting free shipping.

“Online shopping is no longer a trend; it’s become a way of life as consumers’ increasingly busy lifestyles rely on the convenience of ecommerce. Amazon is the starting point for most shoppers’ online path to purchase and that will remain the case during the holidays since most shoppers know they can find both competitive prices and a large product selection. In order to compete, retailers need to match Amazon’s deals with features like free shipping, but also think about how to encourage post-holiday shopping. Coupons or promotions for future purchases offered during a holiday transaction could differentiate retailers and give shoppers a reason to return,” continued DeSalva.

2 in 5 shoppers say they take advantage of off-season sales to buy gifts.

Shoppers welcome the holiday creep

With the ‘holiday creep’ getting earlier and earlier, it seems the majority of consumers are happy to get a good deal on holiday gifts no matter what time of year, as just one third (36%) of holiday shoppers feel winter holiday advertising starts too early. What’s more, many welcome the chance to get an early start on their shopping, with two in five (40%) shoppers saying they take advantage of off-season sales to buy gifts, as compared to 29% who said they prefer to shop for holiday items throughout the year in 2017.

Finally, Mintel research reveals that holiday shoppers are exhausting all options before making a purchase to ensure they’ve found the best deal. Half of shoppers say they look for coupons or promotions before shopping (50%), research gifts before they buy them (49%) and comparison shop at multiple retailers (48%).

“Deal-seeking behavior dominates most consumers’ shopping experiences, especially during the winter holidays. Shoppers are willing to wait until they find the retailer with the best deals before committing to a purchase as the timelines associated with holiday shopping blur. Now more than ever, consumers are moving toward a preference for shopping outside of the traditional holiday season as it allows them to snag hot ticket items without the hassle of additional holiday stresses and spend incrementally to stick to their holiday budgets. Finally, there is space for retailers to create new holidays or out-of-season sales events as an opportunity to draw in shoppers and encourage purchases outside of the post-Thanksgiving time frame,” concluded DeSalva.

*Items purchased during the 2017 winter holiday season.
**Excluding motor vehicle and parts sales.

Press copies of Mintel’s Winter Holiday Shopping US 2018 report and interviews with Alexis DeSalva, Senior Retail and eCommerce Analyst, are available on request from the press office.