Holiday Shopping: 34 Million Already Started

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With nearly three months to go until Christmas Day, some 34 million Americans (about 14% of adults in the country) have already launched their hunt for the perfect gift. Well, maybe not perfect, but at least one that won’t have to be scurried after at the last minute.

That annoys those people who think that holiday shopping should occur closer to the actual holiday. In fact, nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) say they are annoyed with the earlier start to the holiday shopping season. Just 21% disagreed, and the other 6% presumably said, “Bah, humbug.”

The data were released Thursday by researchers at and are based on 1,000 telephone interviews with U.S. adults conducted between September 15 and 18 of this year. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.8%.

More than half of those surveyed (52%) said that around Thanksgiving Day is the right time for holiday displays and sales to appear. Another 21% say that around Halloween is a good starting time, while 7% think October 1 is better and 3% think Labor Day (Labor Day!) is best. Christmas shopping four months in advance, at least based on our experiences, means that those early presents for the children will be out of style and parents will have to try and exchange them for the latest hot item.

While it’s easy to place the blame on retailers for the earlier start to the holiday shopping season, equally likely culprits are shoppers themselves. The National Retail Federation’s Ana Serafin said:

If the consumers are asking for holiday products earlier in the year, you are more than likely to see retailers start having a small assortment by late summer and build up their inventory as we move into the holiday season. It is natural that retailers are reacting to this trend.

Mega-retailer Wal-Mart has already begun rolling out holiday merchandise, but most retailers will wait until the middle of October. Some, like craft store Hobby Lobby, have two seasons: spring and Christmas because making gifts takes a lot more time than buying them.

The survey also surfaced other interesting data:

  • Retail stores remain the most popular method of shopping, with 58% saying brick-and-mortar stores would be their main way to shop for the holidays. Online shopping was favored by 21%, while shopping on a mobile device was a top choice of 11%.
  • Not surprisingly, millennials are the most excited about shopping from their mobile devices. One in five say their mobile devices would be their primary way to shop for the holidays.
  • By a two-to-one margin, more millennials than baby boomers welcome an earlier start to the holidays.
  • Whites, people with higher incomes and those who say they live in suburbs are more likely to be annoyed by the early start of the holidays than their counterparts.

And when do Americans plan to stop shopping? More than half (54%) say they’ll quit in December, 21% said they would be finished in November and 3% expect to be finished in before November 1. Extrapolating from the survey data, about 1 million Americans are already finished with their holiday shopping. Break out the eggnog.

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