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Holiday Spending Up, This Year’s Popular Gift Categories

The holidays may still seem a distant way out, but Americans are already crossing items off of their shopping lists. In fact, as of end-of-September, one-third (33%) of consumers say they have already started their holiday shopping, up significantly from 25% in 2015, according to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker.

When it comes to gifts, Americans expect to spend an average of $908, an 8% increase from last year ($839 in 2015), and among affluent consumers, the expected gift spend increases to an average of $1,513.

Across the board, the most popular gifts to give this year are:

  • Gift cards (52% vs. 57% in 2015)
  • Clothing and accessories (51% vs. 47% in 2015)
  • Toys and games (50% vs. 44% in 2015)

“While consumers are spending more money on gifts this year, they are becoming savvier with how they spend their time shopping,” said Kartik Mani, Executive Vice President of Global Consumer Lending at American Express. “With our constant connection to technology, more Americans than ever before are using their mobile devices to help them make holiday purchases.”

More than 3 in 4 Americans (76%) are turning to their mobile devices for their holiday shopping, whether to browse, compare prices or view deals (vs. 58% in 2015). There has also been a significant increase (62%) in Americans planning to purchase and/or redeem e-gift cards on mobile devices this year (26% vs. 16% in 2015).

One-Stop Holiday Shopping
While mobile will play a major role in holiday shopping this year, virtually all consumers (94%) will turn to online, whether they’re researching, comparing prices, looking for hard-to-find gifts, or ultimately to make a purchase.

For the past four years, about 60% of consumers have preferred to make their holiday gift purchases online. The “go to” place for online holiday shopping are shopping networks, such as Amazon and eBay (65%), followed by superstores, like Target and Walmart (48%), which give consumers the convenience of “one-stop shopping” for everyone on their list.

Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday
Though many consumers are getting to their holiday shopping earlier and earlier, Black Friday is still a major holiday for retailers and consumers alike. Fifty-three percent (53%) of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday this year, up significantly from 45% in 2015, and it is the highest level of participation since 2010 (the first year polled as part of this study). Not far behind, 50% of consumers have plans to shop on Cyber Monday, up slightly from last year (47%).

Hosting for the Holidays and Managing Stress
Holiday spending goes far beyond shopping for gifts. In fact, Americans expect to spend an average of $443 on holiday-related expenses this year (up 7% from $414 in 2015), like hosting and attending holiday parties, as well as decorating the home for the season. In particular, spending on decorations has increased 58% from 2015 ($185 vs. $117), and costs associated with attending a holiday party have increased 57% from 2015 ($119 vs. $76).

Despite all the joy and warmth that the holiday season brings, it can be a very busy and costly time for consumers. The amount of time consumers are devoting to holiday prep is up 25% (58 hours vs. 47 hours in 2015), which can include time spent at holiday parties, cooking, traveling to see family, and most of all, shopping for gifts (17 hours). Not surprisingly, seven out of ten consumers admit that they find the holidays to be stressful, which can mainly be attributed to shopping, budgeting, and entertaining.

About the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker 
The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of 1,540 adults, including the general U.S. population, an affluent demographic defined by a minimum annual household income of $100,000. Interviewing was conducted by Ebiquity from September 14-19, 2016. The results have an overall margin of error of +/- 2.5 at the 95 percent level of confidence.

Source: American Express Press Release

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.