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Black Friday’s Bleak Outlook: 57% Holiday Shoppers Already Started Spending

Multi channel holiday shopping data

Unseasonably warm weather pumped the brakes on fall outerwear purchases, but consumers are still shopping.

According to the latest holiday spending survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF), 56.6% of people started buying gifts by early November—a slight edge up from last year’s 54.4% and a 16 percent leap from the 49 percent who had started by the same time in 2008.

This data jives with a recent PwC report that found that nearly one third of consumers will likely complete more holiday shopping before Black Friday than on the day.

“Thanksgiving weekend shopping has evolved tremendously over the past few years and can no longer be seen as the ‘start’ of the holiday season, though there’s no question it’s still important to millions of holiday shoppers and retailers of all shapes and sizes,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said in a press release. “There is a real sea change happening in retail when it comes to the how, when, where and why of holiday shopping. Consumers today are looking for great prices and value-added promotions earlier than ever before and retailers have answered these demands in several different ways already this holiday season.”

“While there are many ‘Type A’ holiday shoppers who love to get an early start on their wish lists, it’s also likely some of the early shopping we’ve seen has been in the form of ‘self-gifting’ and there’s no question Millennials love treating themselves to something when the price is right,” said Pam Goodfellow of Prosper Insights, which polled 7, 172 consumers on behalf of the NRF. “And, with Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday still to come, holiday shoppers of all ages are still in for a treat when it comes to unbeatable promotions.”

So, what are they on the lookout for? Six in 10 respondents said they still plan to purchase clothing and accessories, while another 46.2% are hunting for entertainment-related gifts like books, CDs, DVDs and video games. Only 41.2% said they will buy toys and one in five will buy jewelry.

The path to purchase, meanwhile, is inspired by a wide array of triggers. The survey found that 46.9% will use an online search engine to shop and more than 35.4% will sift through advertising circulars. On top of that, 30 percent will turn to catalogs and TV commercials will prompt 31 percent of spending.

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On the social media front, 13 percent of shoppers will peruse Facebook for gift ideas, followed by Pinterest (8.8%).

And it looks like retailers’ plans to push holiday promotions as early as September has had an adverse effect on shoppers: More than 40 percent of survey respondents ranked this season’s sales as excellent or good, while 34.8% classed them as average.

“That said,” Shay continued, “many of the season’s best deals are yet to come, meaning there’s still plenty of shopping to be done over Thanksgiving weekend and in December when shipping promotions begin to ramp up. I expect we’ll see shifts all season long as it relates to shopping patterns.”