Where the consumers are

Inside NRF’s Holiday Consumer Spending Survey
Where consumers plan to shop this season, how, and what’s motivating them.


The recently-released National Retail Federation's Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, includes findings based on a survey of more than 7,200 consumers.  Included in the findings are some pearls of insight that should inform both in-store and online experiences your business is working to create this season.

Sure, average per person spending is expected to reach $805.65. However, pearls of insight are found across points-of-sale in the survey. Data points that can help inform, empower your strategies. For example, some 21.4% of smartphone owners said they'll use their devices to purchase holiday merchandise this year--the highest since NRF first asked in 2011. When it comes to free-shipping--nearly half of consumers said free-shipping offers influence their decisions on where to shop, and 93.1% of those who plan to shop online said they will use a free-shipping offer when shopping. Average intended dollar spend on “others”, including co-workers ($25.95) and babysitters ($28.05), highlights the potential role of gift and prepaid cards in your retail shopping experience this year.

Where are consumers looking to shop this season?

Shopping experiences will look very much like the mix of media available to consumers in an omni-channel world.  Discount stores (55.9%) and department stores (52.9%) lead the in-store experience. Two in five consumers (44.1%) said they will shop grocery stores and one-third (33.4%) will shop at clothing or accessory stores.  An equally healthy percentage of shoppers (52.9%) are destined for online experiences.  Of those who plan to shop online, 46.5 percent said they'll take advantage of retailers' buy online/pick-up in-store or ship-to-store options. And, no surprise here, 93.1 percent of consumers said they'll use a free shipping offer when shopping for holiday gifts.   

What drives consumers to shop your store or website?

Asked what shapes their decisions on where to shop during the holidays, consumers shared a range of factors driving their where-to-buy thinking.


Quality merchandise at a good price is the name of the game.  The most cited drivers:

  • Sales or price discounts (73.1%)
  • Quality of merchandise (60.7%)
  • Selection of merchandise (58.6%)
  • Convenient location (45.3%)

The survey also looked at what drives consumers' online shopping behavior. 


  • Free shipping (93.1%)
  • Buy online / pick up in-store (46.5%)

Millennial online shoppers, including those Digital Natives (14-34), are taking it up a step. Survey findings said that 16.7 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 15.9 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds will use a same-day delivery option when buying gifts, compared to just 7.8 percent of the rest of the population.

Pam Goodfellow, a principal analyst with NRF research partner Prosper, said,

"The surprise factor isn't the numbers surrounding Millennials and their planned use of retailers' innovative digital offerings, it's the power that this cohort of adults has when it comes to influencing retailers to speak their language."

Getting around this digitally-native group of consumers is a future-proofing test for all retailers, large and small.

Mobile engagement rises

NRF survey findings also point to the healthy role of mobile in cross-channel experience. One in five (20.3%) smartphone owners will specifically use their devices to look up product availability in a store. Connecting with retailers--for information such as store hours and directions--also remains popular with 28.4% of device owners saying they'll use their smartphone this way--up from 26.9% last year. Researching products with smartphones also continues an uptick, with 37.9% of consumers saying they'll do so--up from 35.8% last year.       

What consumers hope to unwrap

So what gifts do people want most?  Well, according to the survey, gift cards are as popular as ever. Nearly 60% of consumers said they would like to receive gifts cards as a gift. That's the ninth year in a row that gift cards have topped this list of most requested gifts. It also suggests smart gift card issuing strategies for even the smallest of businesses are in order this year. Clothing and accessories remain popular (52.2%) as do books, CDs, DVDs and video games (40.5%).    

The NRF 2015 Holiday Consumer Spending Survey polled 7,276 consumers between October 5 and October 13, 2015.