A Jumpstart on Holiday Shopping: 4 in 10 Americans Started Shopping by Mid-October

NEW YORK, N.Y. – The holiday season is officially upon us, marking time for family, friends, feasts, and of course, shopping. With holiday décor popping up in stores – and holiday tunes playing on airwaves – earlier and earlier every year, it feels as if Americans are hopping into the holiday spirit earlier as well. But just how soon are Americans starting their seasonal shopping? The answer may be sooner than you think.

This year, 41% of Americans had started their holiday shopping by the middle of October. By the second week of November, about 1 in 10 adults (11%) who shop had completed more than three quarters of their shopping. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few stragglers. At the same point in November, nearly one quarter of holiday shoppers (24%) had completed less than 25% of their shopping.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of approximately 2,000 U.S. adults aged 18+ surveyed online on a bi-weekly basis between October 12 and December 7, 2016 (2,108 October 12-14; 2,007 October 26-28; 2,108 November 9-11; 2,056 November 21-23; 2,062 December 5-7).

Shopping habits

Between mid-October and early December, the number of shoppers who had begun their holiday shopping increased from 45% to 84%. Interestingly, Millennials were the ones most likely to get a jumpstart on their shopping back in October (51%), compared to those 45-64 years old (41% 45-54; 39% 55-64).


Despite the number of Americans who are getting a head start on their holiday shopping, there’s no doubt there will be some last minute shoppers flooding the stores. By the end of the first week of December, 16% of holiday shoppers had yet to complete any of their holiday shopping!

Favored vendors

“With four in ten Americans beginning their shopping before Halloween and 16% yet to get started as of the first week in December, the opportunity to reach shoppers during the holidays is expanding dramatically,” said Jordan Rost, Vice President of Consumer Insights at Nielsen.

While some types of merchants are more popular during some shopping points than others, online retailers take the cake week after week. Over half of those who have started their shopping use the Internet to purchase their presents week after week, reaching its peak in early December with about 7 in 10 shoppers turning to an online shop (71%). “Big box” retailers and department stores round out the top three merchants.



To keep up with the latest holiday trends, please visit Nielsen’s Holiday Headquarters.




This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States biweekly between October 12 and December 7, 2016 among approximately 2,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and over (2,108 October 12-14; 2,007 October 26-28; 2,108 November 9-11; 2,056 November 21-23; 2,062 December 5-7). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #67, December 15, 2016

By Allyssa Birth, Senior Research Analyst, The Harris Poll