Nearly one quarter of Americans buy themselves gifts on holidays

December 12, 2017

The “treat yourself” mentality is extending to the holiday season this year as new research from Mintel reveals that nearly one quarter (22 percent) of Americans say they usually buy themselves gifts on holidays. Holiday self-gifting is most popular among younger generations as 24 percent of iGeneration consumers (aged 18-22*) and 27 percent of Millennial consumers (aged 23-40) say they buy themselves gifts on holidays compared to just 14 percent of those in the World War II/Swing generation (aged 72+).

19% of Americans admit to splurging on themselves somewhat regularly.
Looking beyond holidays, self-gifting is an everyday occurrence for some as three in 10 (30 percent) consumers say they have treated themselves to a gift in the last year**, while an indulgent 19 percent admit to splurging on themselves somewhat regularly, with those aged 18-34 most likely to do so (27 percent). No matter how big or small the victory, one quarter of Americans (25 percent) are splurging as a way to reward themselves, rising to 40 percent of iGens.

The old adage that ‘nobody knows you like you know yourself’ rings true for many as nearly six in 10 (57 percent) consumers agree they would rather buy things themselves than receive gifts. Even when shopping for others, it seems consumers use their personal preferences as inspiration when choosing the perfect gift, with nearly three quarters (72 percent) agreeing that they give gifts they would like to receive themselves. Meanwhile, some consumers appear to be too good at gift shopping as one third (32 percent) say they have purchased an item that was intended to be a gift but they saved it for themselves.

As the focus on self-care continues to grow, self-gifting is rising in popularity as a way for consumers to treat themselves, especially during the holidays. Self-gifting creates an opportunity for companies and brands to encourage more shopping. Holidays are a key way to engage with consumers as gifting behavior shifts during this timeframe and they are likely to be swayed to splurge on gifts for themselves while shopping for others,” said Alexis DeSalva, Retail Analyst at Mintel.

7 in 10 Americans would rather receive a monetary gift to buy what they want.
While nearly all (90 percent) consumers appreciate gifts regardless of what they are, consumers do have mixed feelings regarding the kinds of gifts they want. Despite the fact that nearly seven in 10 (69 percent) Americans would rather receive a monetary gift to buy what they want, one third (33 percent) consider gift cards to be an impersonal gift. What’s more, while 57 percent agree they are open to creating wish lists to help friends and family know exactly what they want, consumers are more likely (72 percent) to say they would rather someone give a thoughtful gift than tell others what they want.

More popular than ever, gifts that provide an experience over a tangible item are becoming more sought after, especially among younger consumers. When it comes to gift giving, Millennials are more likely than Americans overall to have bought experience gifts, including theater or movie tickets (28 percent of Millennials vs 20 percent of consumers overall), non-travel related experiences such as concerts or cooking classes (19 percent vs 12 percent overall) and travel or credits toward travel (13 percent vs 7 percent overall), in the last year.

“Participating in experiences rather than receiving a tangible item is trendier now than ever before and gifts that offer an experience are a clear priority for younger consumers, indicating an emerging gifting trend in younger generations. However, that doesn’t mean traditional items are entirely a thing of the past. Retailers should look for ways to evolve the meaning of tangible gifts and focus on a message of purchasing items that complement the experience, such as purchasing a picnic basket and wine of the month subscription to provide the recipient with the experience of a special day or night out,” continued DeSalva.

When it comes to deciding what gifts to give, many consumers tailor their presents for the recipient. Overwhelmingly, the majority of Americans agree that the type of gift they buy (93 percent) and how much they spend (85 percent) depends on for whom they are buying the gift. Meanwhile, for many consumers gift choice is driven by budget as three quarters (74 percent) say they set the amount they want to spend and then find gifts.

Overall, the top occasions consumers give gifts include birthdays (78 percent) and holidays (71 percent), especially among women. In fact, women are driving gifting for both birthdays (83 percent) and holidays (76 percent), as well as Mother’s Day/Father’s Day (50 percent vs 47 percent of consumers overall) and weddings/engagements (52 percent vs 45 percent overall).

“Our research shows that women are driving gift giving across most occasions, and should remain a primary target when marketing gifting opportunities. While other consumer demographics fall below average, it’s possible that they are limited by gift ideas, budgets or keeping track of occasions in general, indicating an opportunity for retailers to provide tools to help with gift suggestions, reminders and budget-friendly options. Providing flexible gifting options, such as group gifting or the option to provide credits toward an event, such as concert tickets or spa services, could enable price-sensitive consumers to give gifts for occasions they otherwise might have to forgo,” concluded DeSalva.

*Mintel defines the iGeneration as consumers aged 10-22 in 2017; in this report, only iGeneration consumers aged 18-22 were surveyed.
**12 months to March 2017.

Press copies of Mintel’s Gifting US 2017 report and interviews with Alexis DeSalva, Retail Analyst, are available on request from the press office.

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