Why holiday shopping is starting even earlier

In-store shopping is having a renaissance this year as consumers return to pre-pandemic traditions

November 02, 2022

Shoppers are crossing gifts off their holiday shopping list earlier this year – and they’re doing it in person.

More than half of people surveyed in JLL’s Retail Holiday report say they plan to purchase gifts before Thanksgiving. A little over 20% are the early birds who started checking off their gift lists before Halloween.

Affluent shoppers are especially likely to get an early start. Nearly one-third of affluent consumers will start shopping before Halloween, the report says.

Reasons to get an early start range from inflation to worries they might not find what they want later.

“Shopping earlier in the season is an impulse we saw more of last year, driven in part by the amount of supply chain stories in the news,” says JLL Americas Director of Retail Research James Cook. “Shoppers were worried that they might not get everything on their list. This year, inventories are higher, but that message may not have made it to the shopper yet.”

Return to normal

After nearly three years of pandemic-influenced online shopping, consumers heading back to stores. Cook says the results of the survey closely mirror what is already being seen across the retail sector: consumers are shifting closer to pre-pandemic behaviors.

 “While there was a brief moment when we saw explosive e-commerce growth, since then online shopping as a percent of retail sales has come back down as people return to their pre-pandemic lifestyles,” Cook says.

Keisha Virtue, JLL’s Retail Senior Research Analyst, says results from JLL’s retail holiday survey show that consumers are shopping earlier for a range of reasons, from concerns over getting goods in time for the holiday and inflation, to holiday shopping leaning more toward experiential.

In fact, 63% of those surveyed said being able to touch and see products before buying them was a major draw to in-store shopping. Other reasons included the holiday ambiance, avoiding shipping costs and delays, and being able to visit Santa – to name a few.

Season of deals

Retailers with excess inventory – mostly from overestimating consumer wants and products not arriving in time due to supply chain hold ups – have already adjusted their traditional holiday strategies to address the new shopping patterns.

Several retailers have already announced that they do not plan to open their doors for traditional Black Friday events. Instead, Cook is expecting a season of discounts – something that has already begun.

Target, for example, kicked off the holiday season with Black Friday-type deals in early October, part of an effort to combat sales from major online retailers. The three-day sale drew almost 28% more average daily visits to Target stores across the U.S. compared to 2021 and about 57% more than in 2020, according to foot traffic analytics firm

“Overall, there’s less focus on ‘here's this one-day of deals’ and more on ‘it's a season of deals,’” Cook says.

Virtue at JLL says that the idea of deals and discounts rolled out through the holiday season resonates well with consumers who are concerned about the economy and inflation. 

“About 43% of those surveyed in the holiday retail report planned to cut down their budgets significantly because of inflation,” Virtue says. “More than half of shoppers surveyed said they plan to look for sales, regardless of their income bracket.”

Interestingly, Black Friday deals online as well as Cyber Monday remain promising for e-commerce.

According to the survey, 54% of people plan to shop Black Friday online and Cyber Monday topped online shopping plans, with 54% of respondents planning to nab deals, while only 26% of shoppers will venture to stores on Cyber Monday.

“We expect many shoppers to take advantage of both deal days, grabbing in-store deals on Black Friday, and then getting cyber deals on Monday, too,” Cook says. “Holiday shoppers seem to like a healthy combination of both in-store and online shopping. While ecommerce is great when they know what they want, in-person shopping allows for browsing and discovery.” 

Looking for more insights? Never miss an update.

The latest news, insights and opportunities from global commercial real estate markets straight to your inbox.