More Than Half of U.S. Consumers Planning Holiday Shopping Early

Supply chain delays, ongoing carrier issues and expectations of late deliveries or out of stocks have driven a record number of U.S. consumers to jump the gun on holiday shopping, with 52% of those responding to an Oracle Retail survey saying they’ve already begun or will do so earlier than usual.

Major retailers are meeting them on the other side of the transaction, with some already starting holiday promotions, including Best Buy and Target, and experts aplenty advising shoppers to hit their gift lists early or risk disappointment.

The findings from the Oracle Retail survey were similar to those from NPD Retail, which found 51% of U.S. consumers planned to start holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, a slight increase from 2020.

“Holiday shopping has been on an earlier start trajectory since Thanksgiving Day store openings in 2014, and then further accelerated by last year’s pandemic shift of Amazon’s Prime Days to October and panic over shipping delays,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry advisor for NPD in a release. “Holiday 2021 continues the early shopping trend, with the added layer of inventory concerns motivating many shoppers to grab what they want when they see it, instead of waiting for better deals later in the season.”

A fifth of all U.S. respondents to the Oracle Retail survey, conducted by Untold Insights, said they plan to order more gifts to hedge against orders that don’t arrive, rising to 44% for millennials. And just over a third (34%) said they plan to buy gift cards, a number that jumps to 58% for baby boomers.

The survey, conducted in September, polled 5,728 consumers across North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America, including 512 in the U.S.

“As we see in the news, the supply chain challenges are a global reality,” said Mike Webster, SVP and general manager for Oracle Retail, in a release. “Regardless, consumers will still measure retailers on their ability to deliver on their wish lists this holiday season. Accountability will be the name of the game. Retailers must have clear visibility into their inventory, a realistic timeline for the fulfillment, and a plan to communicate clearly throughout the order and delivery processes.”

The multi-faceted supply chain woes, which have been exacerbated lately in a cascading effect from origin to door, are causing a good bit of agita for consumers, according to the Oracle Retail survey. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they were anxious the products they want will be more expensive due to scarcity, with 27% worrying they won’t be available, and 17% concerned family and friends will be disappointed.

Reflecting ongoing pandemic concerns, nearly two-thirds of consumers (72%) plan to have orders delivered to their homes, up from 64% in 2020. Cognizant of the logjams, 22% said shipping times won’t meet their expectations, or the items won’t arrive at all. Not surprisingly given current conditions, 65% said granular tracking of delivery status is very important to them.

Some other findings on holiday fulfillment expectations:

  • 36% said fast delivery determines whom they order from
  • 9% expect same-day delivery, 28% 1–2-day delivery and 41% 3–5-day delivery
  • 30% of people say they will be outraged if shipments are delayed
  • 38% worry gifts will arrive later than anticipated
  • 25% are concerned gifts won’t arrive at all
  • 18% are willing to pay more to ensure faster or guaranteed delivery
  • 55% said they’re considering on-demand delivery service like DoorDash to order last-minute gifts