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Are the long lines and limited sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday finally turning frenzied consumers away? While 37% of unimpressed US shoppers say they can get a good deal at any time of the year, nearly the same percentage wait for the thrill of post-Thanksgiving shopping. New research from Mintel, the experts in what consumers want and why, reveals that one third (33%) of shoppers say they typically do most of their winter holiday shopping* between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

With fewer holiday shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, it seems consumers have a few options for getting everything checked off their lists. An enthusiastic one in five (20%) consumers want to leave plenty of time to get everything done and say they start holiday shopping as soon as they see the first ad in early October. For those uncompromising about speedy delivery, 72% plan to holiday shop online. Whether a procrastinator or thrill-seeker, just over one in 10 (12%) leave holiday shopping for the week of their celebrated holiday.

Overall, Mintel research reveals that 84% of Americans plan to shop during the 2019 winter holiday season**, a two percentage point increase over last year.

Diana Smith, Associate Director, Retail & Apparel, Mintel, said:

“With six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, the 2019 winter holiday season will feel fast and furious as retailers race to make year-end sales goals and shoppers rush to get everything checked off holiday wish lists. A shorter season brings even more importance to the ‘power weekend’ between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. This time period will still garner the majority of holiday sales, and it’s quite possible Cyber Monday sales could reach new heights this year.”

Holiday showdown: in-store vs. online
Due to the speed and convenience of online shopping, more and more Americans are choosing to go this route this holiday season. But many consumers enjoy being able to see the product and experience it in person. In fact, this year, 82% of consumers plan to shop in-store, more than those who plan to shop online (72%). Three in five (62%) are planning to shop at Amazon, 71% at mass merchandisers like Target or Walmart, and 59% at department stores. Looking for the best of both worlds, some 54% plan to shop both online and in-store.

When it comes to figuring out what gifts to buy, shoppers are turning to social media for inspiration (38%) and seeking others’ (ie family, friends and influencers) advice (63%). Some retailers are offering concierge and/or personal shopping services as a way to add more convenience for shoppers; 38% of holiday shoppers have used or would use this type of service.

“Most consumers likely have an idea of what they want to buy, but do a significant amount of research and browsing online before actually making a purchase. A majority of consumers toggle back and forth between channels, meaning that if retailers aren’t taking an omnichannel approach, they will fall behind their competitors. Our research shows that shoppers will go to a store to see something in person or for a fun experience they can’t get online, but use online channels to make that final purchase. Today, consumers are using more online tools to make shopping lists, buy from wish lists and do price comparison research. Pinterest is a go-to favorite platform for ideas, and Instagram’s power and influence is dominating the social media space. Retailers need to be integrating their brands and offerings into social platforms or they risk missing out on easily influenced shoppers who are looking for guidance,” continued Smith.

Are experiences this year’s hot gift?
Experiences are quickly becoming the sought-after gift this holiday season. Last year, only 17% said that experience gifts were better than tangible ones; this year, an impressive 50% say they prefer experiences over tangible gifts.

When it comes to gift giving, consumers are balancing the wishes of their recipients with a desire for out-of-the-box creativity. While three-quarters (76%) stick to items from others’ wish lists, nearly the same percentage (77%) like to be creative when giving gifts. But there are also the unenthusiastic gift-givers; 21% admit that they don’t put much thought into the gifts they shop for.

“Half of holiday shoppers think experiential gifts, such as tickets to an event or subscription services, are better than tangible items, particularly Generation Z and Millennial consumers. However, top purchased items still tend to be tangible items, like clothing, food, gift cards, toys and games. While shoppers might believe that experiential gifts are more meaningful, they may need some convincing to purchase them for someone else because there is risk involved with the recipient not liking it or not being able to return it. Companies and brands must not only be clever about the type of experiential gifts or services they position this holiday season, but also ensure it’s easy to make a return or exchange,” continued Smith.

‘Tis the season to treat yourself
Finally, it wouldn’t be the holidays without a little bit of stress, as 31% of consumers say they associate the winter holiday season with stress. But it seems self-care is alive and well this year, with 68% of shoppers agreeing they like to treat themselves during the holidays. Positivity and enthusiasm seem to outweigh any stress though, as the majority (54%) of shoppers affiliate the holiday season with family and 37% with excitement and fun.

“The growing focus on mental health issues is highlighting consumer demand for solutions that help them to relax, unwind, and take a step back from life. As the wellness industry continues to expand and evolve, more and more solutions will come from outside the traditional health sector,” said Marissa Gilbert, Associate Director, Mintel Reports US, Health and Wellness.

*“Holiday shopping” refers to expected consumer expenditures on holiday-specific items such as gifts, decorations, seasonal candy and other food, greeting cards, and other expenditures.
**“Winter holidays” refers to holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, representing the bulk of total holiday expenditures.