Survey: Holiday shopping started early, in-store shoppers feel safe

Marianne Wilson
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A new survey reveals that holiday shopping has gotten off to an earlier start than usual this year and that cash will definitely not be king this season.

As of early November, 59% holiday shoppers said they had started making purchases, up 21% from a decade ago, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. More than 40% of holiday shoppers said they started shopping earlier this year than they normally do.

Retailers’ investments in the health and safety of their employees and customers appears to have paid off. A large majority (70%) of holiday shoppers said that, given the precautions retailers have taken for COVID-19, they have felt safe shopping in stores this holiday season.

Credit cards remain the leading (42%) form of payment consumers plan to use this holiday season, followed closely by debit cards (41%). Just 15% of consumers listed cash as a top form of payment during the holidays, the lowest in the survey’s history and likely related to COVID-19, the report said.

Half (49%) of shoppers plan to use an alternative form of payment such as PayPal, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Venmo.

Other findings from the survey are below.

* Clothing and accessories are the most popular gift category, according to 54% of those surveyed, followed by gift cards/gift certificates (49%), toys (37%), books and other media (34%) and food/candy (28%).  

*Similar to last year, consumers plan to purchase between three and four gift cards, for an average spend of $163 per consumer. Total spending on gift cards is expected to reach $27.5 billion.   

* The 2020 top toys for boys and girls include Lego items and PlayStation. Cars and trucks, Hot Wheels and video games are also popular gifts for boys. Barbie and dolls remain the top toys for girls. 

*Sixty-nine percent of holiday shoppers said they are able to find the items they are looking for all or most of the time, and 84% are confident they will receive items they order online in time for the holidays.