First Data: Who Buys What On Christmas Eve

First Data holiday shopping

When it comes to hot and last-minute Christmas gifts, one can hardly go wrong with some spark plugs. An ignition coil sounds pretty festive. Who among us doesn’t want distributor cap in one of those stocking hung with care? And Santa Claus would be a real pal if he came through with some new wiper blades and perhaps even a door lock actuator.

No, we at PYMNTS have not been sipping the eggnog, at least not yet. Nor are we advising that our valued readers risk their personal relationships (and personal well-being) by actually giving their nearest and dearest the gift of auto parts. But there is a reason behind this apparently madness: When it comes to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after Christmas, motor vehicle parts can, indeed, make certain consumers very happy, at least judging by holiday shopping data from First Data.

In a new PYMNTS interview conducted days before the holidays, Karen Webster and Glenn Fodor, First Data’s head of analytics, discussed shopping trends centered around those three days. The data in question described the percentage of purchases made on those three days in specific product categories — with the data painting a picture of this last, but still important, part of the 2018 holiday shopping season.

Spending Trends

First, let’s take a look at the overall spending trends, and what one can expect on Monday (Dec. 24), Tuesday (Dec. 25) and Wednesday (Dec. 26). Christmas Eve often serves as its own high holiday for last-minute shoppers, and that would seem to be the case again this year, given that the day falls on a Monday, an otherwise normal day for general commerce. According to data provided by Fodor, about half of the retail spending over that three-day period occurs on Christmas Eve, about 10 percent on Christmas Day and 40 percent on the day after Christmas.

Some people, after all, celebrate the season with friends or certain relatives after the actual holiday — in which case those lucky souls can take advantage of post-Christmas discounts. The day after Christmas stands as an “almost equally robust shopping (as is) the day before Christmas,” Fodor told Webster.

It is true, Webster asked, that most of the Christmas Eve spending is by men, as stereotypes and pop culture have long indicated?

Fodor could not answer that question, given the lack of specific data, but he did offer this: When it comes to purchases of sporting good items during that three-day period, 60 percent to 65 percent of that spending happens on Christmas Eve.

Cars vs. Jewelry

And that brings us back to motor vehicle parts — boring to many consumers for understandable reasons, but pretty darn sexy to certain shoppers and gift recipients. According to Fodor, 10 to 15 percent of auto parts spending during the three-day period will take place on Christmas Eve. Virtually none will take place on Christmas day, with the rest — about 85 percent or so — coming on the day after Christmas.

There are, indeed, coldly logical reasons for that.

People tend to “be home during that week,” Fodor said. “They might have five days off and decided to fix their cars.” (Of course, fixing the car serves as a good excuse to get away from annoying relatives for a little bit, but that is beyond the scope of this particular story.)

But what about jewelry, a more traditional and romantic holiday gift (if much less useful) than oil filters and alternators?

For the three-day period that puts an exclamation point on the holiday shopping season, 66 percent of jewelry purchases take place on Christmas Eve, at least according to 2017 data. Christmas Day absorbs 9 percent of jewelry spending during that period (you have to admire the bravery of someone waiting to buy jewelry on Christmas Day), with 26 percent happening on the day after Christmas (no doubt a few of those purchases serving as non-verbal apologies for eggnog-induced misbehavior from the two days prior).

Physical Stores

Last-minute shopping usually involves brick-and-mortar stores, given the delivery cutoffs for eCommerce purchases. So far, physical stores seem to be, at the least, holding their own, according to other statistics from First Data. As reported by PYMNTS, First Data recently found that brick-and-mortar retail overall grew in the low single digits during the early part of the 2018 holiday shopping season. Granted, eCommerce grew about 35 percent according to that same measure (growth from a smaller base, of course), but the main message is that the death of physical retail — as has been the case for years — has been greatly exaggerated.

No doubt significant sales are drawing consumers to physical stores, and will continue to do so as the 2018 holiday season winds down. Both Fodor and Webster discussed during the recent PYMNTS interview that, in Webster’s words, sales so far this season have been “extraordinary,” with discount offers of 70 percent and 75 percent a relatively common sight this year. Fodor said he had been noticing the same trend.

The fourth quarter is coming to an end and with it, retailers will finally know for sure whether their expectations have held up to the icy judgement of reality. Not everyone will be lucky enough to get a new battery for their car or truck (Do you really want to go through the rest of winter with a faulty battery?) but some people will wake up on Christmas, or the day after, to the gift of a shiny rock that represents love, fidelity, respect and joy.