The Retail Hype Of Christmas Eve Shopping

Christmas Eve is the end of the holiday shopping rush for some, and just the beginning for others. What is it about Christmas Eve that's created a culture where retailers are able to push consumers into stores or online to that very last minute?

Christmas Day falls on the same date every year, but still a new survey shows one in every six holiday shoppers waits until the last minute to do their gift buying. In that same survey, 58 percent of consumers said they use smartphones and tablets to help them shop, and 51 percent use their mobile devices to locate stores and check store hours as they get closer to Christmas Day. Looks like we may have mobile to thank for making Christmas Eve a robust shopping day!

In the U.K. this seems particularly true. CNBC report that mobile devices will even drive sales on Christmas Day. Data from the U.K. e-retail association IMRG and Experian estimated that Brits will spend $993 million (£636 million) a minute on December 25.

"Amazon said orders peak at 12.26 p.m. on December 25, with shoppers rushing to download books, movies and TV programs on newly gifted or purchased digital devices," CNBC reported. "From midnight on Christmas Eve to 11 a.m. on Christmas morning, sales of printable and email gift cards peak on, as customers scramble to pick up last chance presents."

Starbucks is another example of a retailer that benefits from the last-minute shopper. Starbucks sold more than 2 million gift cards on Christmas Eve alone last year. That's about 1,500 cards per minute, the company said. The National Retail Federation predicts 8 in 10 shoppers will buy a gift card this holiday season.

But here's the question. Does consumer desire to shop longer into the holiday shopping season deadline spark retailers' decision to stay open later or did retailer's decision to stay open later spark consumers desire to want to shop later?

Many retailers stay open 24-hours leading into Christmas Eve and remain open until at least 6 p.m. that day. Even the Stock Market close hours before most retailers do on Christmas Eve.

e-Commerce sites have only added to the last minute shopping rush. Sites such as Amazon offer one-day shipping the night before Christmas Eve and even same-day delivery in select markets. The commerce trends seem to be tipping in favor of the last-minute shoppers — reminding them every ticking moment before Christmas Day strikes that there's still time to get that perfect addition to put under the Christmas tree. (Even Christmas morning if a consumer is sending an e-gift.)

For consumers who don't feel the need to last-minute shop, there's always the mainstream media to remind them just what they're missing from their published last-minute holiday gift guides. ABC has one, and so does CNN Money. It's the simple reminders of the dozens of retailers — online and in-store — that remain open on a day that many consider a holiday itself. But that hasn’t stopped shoppers from hitting the stores, and even the web last minute.

While there seems to be a push to promote last minute holiday shopping, research shows that a majority of consumers have already checked off their holiday list needs long before the big day. Because retailers in the U.S. promote holiday shopping before Halloween, it's not surprising that most consumers don’t wait until the day before to pick up gifts. And, there are more early bird shoppers than you may think.

Statista research reported that 12.3 percent of consumers Christmas shop before September; 7 percent during September; 22.1 percent in October; 39 percent in November; 16.2 percent two weeks before Christmas and just 3.5 percent of consumers reported shopping in the final two weeks. The National Retail Federation also reported that 40 percent of holiday shoppers beglatest survey concluded that as of Dec. 10, the average holiday shopper has completed roughly 53 percent of their, which is up slightly from the nearly 50 percent last year. Shoppers may bit hitting the stores earlier each year, but retailers continue to work up until the day to attract consumers, enticing in the stores at the last minute not to start, but to simply finish out, their holiday shopping.

“This year we witnessed ‘a tale of two holiday shoppers’ with many jumping on retailers’ early, hard-to-pass-up in-store and online promotions, and others waiting until the last minute to wrap up their lists,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “In the final stretch, retailers will continue to look for creative ways to attract those with shopping left to do by offering exclusive Super Saturday promotions, extending their in-store holiday hours and promoting deals on expedited shipping. We are optimistic the holiday season will end on a high note for retailers.”

Among other projections released from the NRF about Christmas shopping leading up to the holiday, 22.2 percent of respondents surveyed said they'd be browsing the web on, with just 7.4 percent of consumers saying they will shop online on Christmas Day. A majority of last-minute shoppers (starting less than a week before Christmas) said they waited until Super Saturday to purchase last minute gifts and 9.1 percent said they'll wait until Christmas Eve. 32.8 percent of respondents said they'd buy their holiday gift before the final week. Also relevant, in terms of gender — more men wait until Christmas Eve to purchase the last gift (10.5 percent vs. 7.9 percent of women).

“Though millions of eager consumers jumped on early holiday promotions, there is still plenty of shopping left to do,” said Pam Goodfellow Prosper’s Principal Analyst. “Hurried last-minute shoppers will look for gift cards, clothing items, toys and other popular gifts from a variety of retailers, likely even hoping to win big with expedited shipping deals and extremely low prices online and in stores.”

Even with the increase in numbers of savvier shoppers and many turning to online to get that holiday shopping out of the way, there's always going to be that last-minute consumer. Luckily for retailers there will always be procrastinators, and luckily for procrastinators there will always be retailers open on Christmas Eve.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.

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