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Are Consumers Really Getting a Head Start on Holiday Shopping?

Maybe it’s the concern from coverage of shipping delays or pandemic-related pent-up demand, but 40 percent of consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier than they did last year, according to the new “2021 Holidays Unwrapped” report from Klarna, a global retail bank, payments and shopping service.

Based on surveys of more than 24,000 U.S. shoppers and Klarna’s proprietary shopping data from its 20 million consumers nationwide, the report also found that 71 percent of shoppers plan to begin purchasing holiday gifts before December and 22 percent have already started.

The reason for the early start could also be more pedestrian–72 percent of shoppers cited a desire to take advantage of holiday sales as the main reason for getting a head start on their gift purchasing this year. However, amid reports of supply chain issues across the country causing potential problems for retailers, half of shoppers surveyed are also starting earlier to ensure product availability, while others want to avoid shipping delays and last-minute stress.

“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 percent more, on average, than those who start shopping later,” David Sykes, head of North America at Klarna, said.

“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,” he continued. “Also noteworthy–shoppers with the biggest budgets are twice as likely to seek out flexible payment options, like Klarna’s interest-free ‘Pay in 4’ solution. Whether shoppers are purchasing in store or online, 80 percent are expecting a seamless experience with convenient ways to pay.”

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Klarna’s report also found that more than one-third of shoppers plan to spend more on gift-giving this year than they did last year, with Gen Zers (57 percent) and millennials (53 percent) more likely than any other age group to expand their budgets this holiday season compared to last year.

The report also found that shoppers who plan to do the bulk of their holiday shopping online also have more to spend this holiday season. Those shopping “mostly online” said they plan to spend 9 percent more, on average, than those who are shopping in-store.

Looking at other trends, the survey showed that Black Friday is on track to take back its place from Cyber Monday as the biggest online sales day of the year. While Black Friday bargain-hunting traditionally centered around physical retail and so-called “door-buster” deals, 56 percent of shoppers said they’ll make the majority of their Black Friday purchases online, compared to 23 percent who will shop mostly in-store.

This aligns with Klarna shopping data, which saw online sales volume nearly triple on Black Friday last year compared to the average day in November 2020, surpassing Cyber Monday sales by 26 percent.

Big-box retailers were cited as the most popular place to shop this holiday season, followed by department stores and malls. Gen Zers are more likely than all other age groups to hit shopping malls this holiday season.

Younger consumers are also choosing payment options that support their budgeting needs. Gen Z, Millennial and Gen Xers are more likely to pay for gifts with debit over credit, and the majority also are looking for flexible payments, Klarna noted.

A great omnichannel experience means high-touch customer service, according to the survey, with 80 percent of shoppers expecting a seamless, convenient and connected online and offline shopping experience, and 72 percent saying that helpful customer service and knowledgeable sales associates are critical to ensuring a stand-out shopping experience.

Klarna’s offering to consumers and retailers include payments, social shopping and personal finances. More than 250,000 retail partners, including H&M, Ikea, Expedia Group, Samsung, Asos, Peloton, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike and AliExpress have enabled Klarna’s shopping experience online and in-store.