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Survey: Holiday shoppers start early, want deals; big-box stores most popular

Holiday sales are encouraging consumers to begin seasonal shopping earlier than in 2020.

More than one in five consumers have already begun holiday shopping, with seasonal sales as a major incentive.

Forty-percent of consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier in 2021 than they did in 2020, according to the “2021 Holidays Unwrapped” study from global retail bank, payments and shopping service Klarna. The study also found that 71% of shoppers plan to begin purchasing holiday gifts before December, and 22% have already started.

More than seven in 10 (72%) shoppers cite a desire to take advantage of holiday sales as the main reason for starting to make seasonal purchases earlier this year. Other leading reasons include ensuring product availability (50%), avoiding shipping delays (45%), and eliminating last-minute stress (39%).

Big-box retailers (62%) are the most popular place to shop for the holiday season, followed by department stores (37%) and malls (34%). Gen Z (44%) are more likely than all other age groups (millennials: 38%, Gen X: 30%, baby boomers: 28%) to visit shopping malls this holiday season.

Other interesting findings are below.

  • More than one-third (34%) of shoppers plan to spend more on gift-giving this year than they did last year, with Gen Z (57%) and millennials (53%) more likely than any other age group to increase holiday spending year-over-year. Less likely were Gen X (32%) and baby boomers (12%).
  • Consumers shopping “mostly online” plan to spend 9% more, on average than those who are shopping in-store.
  • Nearly half (49%) of shoppers anticipate making the bulk of their purchases on Black Friday, compared to 38% who say they will spend the most on Cyber Monday. Fifty-six percent of shoppers say they will make the majority of their Black Friday purchases online, compared to 23% who will shop mostly in-store. 
  • Gen Z, millennial, and Gen X consumers are more likely to pay for holiday gifts with debit (59%) over credit (50%), and the majority also are looking for flexible payments (Gen Z: 75%, millennials: 76%, Gen X: 60%).
  • Eighty percent of shoppers expect a seamless, convenient and connected online and offline shopping experience, and 72% say that helpful customer service and knowledgeable sales associates are critical to ensuring a stand-out shopping experience.
  • 71% of Gen Z and 69% of millennials say they are interested in livestream shopping events, compared to 48% of Gen X and 11% of baby boomers.
  • The vast majority of younger shoppers (78% Gen Z and 79% millennials) say they have purchased a product after seeing it on social media; along with 55% of Gen X and 20% of baby boomers.

The Klarna study is based on surveys of more than 24,000 U.S. shoppers and the company’s proprietary shopping data from 20 million consumers nationwide.

[Read more: Digital holiday sales will top $1 trillion despite supply chain issues]

"As a significant percentage of consumers plan to begin their holiday shopping early this year, brands should take note that this group plans to spend 16% more, on average than those who start shopping later," said David Sykes, head of North America, Klarna. "To entice these early birds, retailers should offer some of their best holiday promotions much sooner than usual, while keeping their eyes on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are poised to remain the biggest buying days of the season."

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