A recent survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) finds that holiday shopping is expected to rise 4.1% in 2012 to $586 billion, an average of about $750 per holiday shopper. “This is the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession,” said Matthew Shay, NRF’s chief executive. “In spite of the uncertainties that exist in our economy and among consumers, we believe we’ll see solid holiday sales growth this year.”

The NRF survey identifies 5 holiday shopping trends for 2012:

1. Shopping is starting earlier than ever

The NRF survey finds 22% of consumers are starting their holiday shopping in October this year, up from 20% last year. Retailers are anticipating this wave of early shoppers by offering holiday specials as early as Halloween.

2. Black Friday might be further diluted

Last year, major retailers such as Gap, Kmart, Target and Toys ‘R’ Us opened on Thanksgiving Day to give shoppers a jumpstart on holiday gift buying. The strategy worked, with both online and in-store consumers responding enthusiastically and putting pressure on more retailers to open on Thanksgiving Day 2012 or risk being left behind. However, even with Thanksgiving Day sales, ShopperTrak found that Black Friday was still the busiest shopping day of 2011.

3. Layaway is back, and bigger than last year

Businesses are taking notice as layaway makes a major comeback, after having all but faded from the retail scene. Due to increasing wariness over credit card usage, consumers are gravitating towards layaway programs that enable them to pay incrementally for an item over a set period of time for only a slight fee. Major retailers such as Toys ‘R’ Us and Wal-Mart are offering consumers special seasonal layaway programs and incentives.

4. Gift cards still top people’s wish lists

According to the NRF survey, 60% of consumers say they want gift cards for the holidays. In fact, gift cards are the single most popular item on holiday wish lists, topping apparel, books, CDs, DVDs and video games. Thanks to new websites like www.plasticjungle.com and www.giftcards.com that specialize in selling unredeemed gift cards, consumers can buy gift cards online without leaving home.

5. Online, mobile growth boom continues

The popularity of online shopping combined with a trend towards free shipping by retailers has resulted in explosive growth of holiday shopping over the Internet. The survey found that 9 out of 10 retailers plan to offer some form of free shipping for holiday purchases, and analysts estimate that this will result in a growth of 12% for online sales this holiday season. The survey also found that 52% of consumers plan to shop online for some gifts this year, up from 47% last year and the highest percentage recorded since the NRF began its surveys.


Portillo, Ely. “Analysts: 5 trends will affect holiday shopping this year.” CharlotteObserver.com. October 27, 2012. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/10/27/3624412/analysts-5-trends-will-affect.html. Accessed October 29, 2012.

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