Retailers’ efforts to woo early-bird holiday shoppers are paying off, according to the latest polling data from the National Retail Federation, with 51.4% of U.S. adults already out there making spirits bright. That’s up from the 48.9% who had begun shopping at this time last year.
The big news is that, while consumers are determined to keep their gift budgets in line, they are tiptoeing toward frivolity, straying a little from the practicality that has prevailed for the last few years. For example, 21.2% plan to purchase jewelry this year, up from 20.3% last year, 18.3% will buy someone a gift of home décor, up from 16.5%, and 17.8% will spring for sporting goods, up from 15.5%. Plans to make beauty-related purchases are also rising, to 24% from 22.4%.
The survey, conducted for NRF by BIGResearch among 8,500 adults, also found strong indications that electronics will rule: 32.2% say they intend to buy a smartphone, tablet or computer accessory, up from 28.4% in 2010.
And while some surveys have found a declining interest in gift cards, the NRF says 57.3% of those in its survey intend to buy at least one, the highest percent in the survey’s 10-year history.
Also at a record high are intentions to use a debit card as the primary method of fulfilling Santa’s intentions: 44% plan to pay this way, up under 1% from last year. But the number of consumers expecting to charge some gifts, 28.8%, is also up a bit, from 27.6% last year. Another 24.1% plan to use cash, and 3.1% say they will pay by check.
Some retailers are already reaping the benefits of those early shoppers. Target posted stronger-than-expected third-quarter results today, with sales rising 5.4% to $16.1 billion from $15.2 billion a year ago, including a 4.3% increase in comparable-store sales. And net income rose 3.7% to $555 million, compared with $535 million in the same period a year ago.
“We’re very pleased,” says Gregg Steinhafel, chairman/CEO of the Minneapolis-based retailer, in its release. “We’re confident that we have the right strategy and team in place to drive continued strong performance this holiday season and well into the future.”