Retailers Have Trained Americans to Procrastinate Less 

Last-minute shopping is losing some of its historical significance  

Author: Andria Cheng

December 20, 2017

Retailers’ earlier-than-ever holiday promotions—think well before Thanksgiving and Black Friday—have led to a new phenomenon: Americans are getting a head start on holiday shopping.

US consumers had completed nearly 61% of their total holiday shopping as of December 12, according to a December survey of more than 7,200 shoppers from the National Retail Federation (NRF), conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. That’s up from about 53% last year, and the highest completion rate since at least 2005. In total, nearly 55% of shoppers said they’d finished at least half of their holiday shopping, also a historical high.

Despite the shift in trend—and have no doubt, getting their share of business this week is still crucial for retailers—some 126 million people, or 53% of consumers, said they plan to shop this weekend on so-called Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas, NRF said.

What’s more, mall traffic tracker ShopperTrak has forecast this Saturday to be the second-busiest holiday shopping day of 2017, trailing only behind Black Friday. This Friday will also rank as one of the season’s top 10 shopping days.

A separate study from Bank of America of more than 40 million of its active credit and debit card accounts found that December 23 was the biggest retail sales day in December 2016.

And the recent NRF survey showed that while 55% of shoppers expected to be done with their holiday shopping by Wednesday, 6% said they will still be shopping on Christmas Eve (Sunday), and 5% said they won’t finish buying their last gifts until after Christmas.

There’s no doubt that retailers are pulling out all the stops to bolster holiday purchases. Walmart, capitalizing on the fact that its US stores are within 10 miles of 90% of the US population, is promoting online orders of last-minute gifts to be picked up in stores on Christmas Eve if they are purchased before 4pm on Saturday.

Best Buy also is pitching “fast store pickup” or same-day delivery in select markets, and Amazon has cut the price of its new Echo Show voice assistant device, which features a screen, by more than a third to $149 as part of its last-minute deals.

In perhaps an implicit nod that buying for men may often be a challenge and relegated to last-minute shopping activity, Amazon broke out a section on “Gifts for Him,” promoting “ready-to-wrap” men’s watch sets.

Amazon’s move made sense. In the week ended Sunday, “gifts for men” was the third most popular search term on its site, moving 18 spots up the rankings and behind only “Nintendo Switch” and “Star Wars,” according to Hitwise data