For Holidays, Shoppers Crave More Experiences, Less Merchandise

As if retailers aren’t having enough trouble selling neckties and bedroom slippers this holiday, a new report from NPD Group hints at another existential threat: Nearly 40% of holiday gift shoppers say they plan to give “experience” gifts, such as a spa certificate or concert tickets, rather than merchandise.

NPD says 48% of shoppers in its survey plan to give some kind of food experience, such as dining out or wine tastings, while 32% intend to buy tickets to a performance or a musical event, and 31% intend to give a spa certificate. Travel, at 23%, is also shaping up to be a popular choice.

The forecast also predicts that up to 7% will give someone the gift of some kind of retail subscription.

Gen Z, Millennials, families with children, and those earning $75,000 or more are more likely to want to surprise people with experiential gifts to celebrate the holidays.



Last month, research from the National Retail Federation forecast that while apparel would still be the No. 1 gift choice, gift cards came in second, with 59% planning to purchase one, up from 56% last year. And the leading type of gift card, named by 36%, is for a restaurant experience.

There will still be plenty under the tree. NPD is predicting a strong showing for books, with annual sales of print books expected to increase 5% in the final stretch of the year. (So far, however, they’ve been weaker, and it expects an annual gain of just 2%.)

And in technology, Gartner is anticipating plenty of smartwatches coming down the chimney, dominating the holiday wearables market. It expects global unit sales of 41.5 million for the full year. “Some users have held back on purchasing an Apple Watch until now as the use case has not seemed compelling enough,” it reports. “However, with its cellular connectivity, the Apple Watch Series 3 offers new use cases, such as music streaming during a workout at the gym, or leaving your iPhone at home, that will inevitably spur demand and boost sales on Black Friday and this holiday season.”

And it predicts sales of wristbands to reach 44 million units for the full year.

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