Two thirds of US shoppers plan to buy at least half of their gifts online

December 19, 2014

Chicago (December 19, 2014)—Holiday sales as compared to overall annual retail sales have been trending downward for about a decade. Holiday sales in 2013, at $663.5 billion, were 18.7% of overall retail sales, well below the peak of 19.6% seen in 2004. However, one holiday shopping segment is prime for growth, as online shopping is set to be prolific this year. Indeed, new Mintel research conducted just this month finds that two thirds (67%) of online holiday shoppers plan to buy at least half of their presents online.

This already high statistic rises among Millennials (80%) and Generation X (72%), those with children 6-11 in the home (85%), and larger households in general (76% among those with five or more in the home). Overall, 86% intended to do at least some shopping online, higher than the 79% shopping via this channel last year.

“This is a high-pressure time of year as frenzied consumers rush to finish their holiday shopping,” says Diana Smith, Senior Retail & Apparel Analyst at Mintel. “Retailers should take steps to cater to the last minute shoppers, offering free or reduced shipping online, guaranteed fast lines in-store, or other special discounts to help make the shopping process a bit more enjoyable.”

The top retail channels holiday shoppers planned to use this season include online only retailers (48%), mass merchandisers (44%), department stores (42%), and electronics retailers (33%). Mintel research uncovered some other interesting holiday behaviors as well:

Many shoppers get out ahead
Nearly one third (32%) of holiday shoppers started shopping before Thanksgiving, while young adults in general (14% of adults 25-34 and 13% of men 18-34) claim they’ll do it the day before or the week before (23% and 27% respectively). Some retailers catering to the younger demographic like Old Navy and Banana Republic are offering procrastinator sales targeted to those who have yet to begin their shopping.

What do YOU want for the holidays?
When asked what items they would like to receive this holiday season, the top response was gift cards, by 59% of respondents. This was followed by clothing and footwear (46%), electronics (39%), jewelry and accessories (29%), and beauty and personal care (29%). All categories were significantly more desired by women except for electronics, which appealed more to men and 18-24 shoppers. Some 12% of respondents did not expect to receive any gifts.

Giving is receiving
The top items people would like to receive are the same ones people plan to buy for others. Gift cards are expected to be a big hit again with 55% of respondents planning to buy them for others (up vs. 46% from the previous survey fielded in June 2014 which included self-purchasing). Toys and games, cited by 37% of respondents, pop up into the top five for gifting, but is a reduction vs. 41% in the previous holiday shopping survey. Fresh or prepared food was the third listed item in Mintel’s survey by 42%, but only garnered 13% of responses in the latest survey. Cash was also a top gift mentioned by respondents who planned to give it as well as would like to receive it.

So many places to shop
The expected trends relative to where people planned to shop this holiday season seem to be playing out in the updated survey, with Amazon cited as the top retailer that 56% of respondents plan to visit, followed by Walmart with 52%. Other retailers garnering at least 20% of responses include Target (39%), Best Buy (32%), Kohl’s (29%), and Macy’s (24%), with retailer choice aligning with the items people plan to purchase.

Price is more important
Some 65% of respondents agreed that “Items that fit into my overall holiday shopping budget” is more important than “Getting the right items for recipients regardless of price.” This response was more pronounced among women, 25-34 year-olds, and Hispanics and Blacks, while those with household income of $150K+ and men 55+ are the most likely groups to think getting the right items is more important than price.

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