March 25, 2023

Bucks Blog: Procrastinating Holiday Shoppers Abound

A holiday shopper in New York's Times Square.ReutersA holiday shopper in New York’s Times Square.

I spent a lot of the weekend shopping online for Christmas gifts I should have bought, and shipped, weeks ago. Try as I may, I can’t overcome my procrastinator tendencies.

But at least I have lots of company.

A survey released by Visa Inc. on Monday found that nearly three-fourths of consumers still haven’t finished shopping for Christmas gifts, with just over a week to go before the big day.

The survey is based on a telephone survey of 1,007 people conducted between Dec. 14 and Dec. 16 by GfK Roper OmniTel. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

One finding made me feel a bit better, though: Sixteen percent of consumers haven’t bought any gifts at all and plan to do all of their shopping at the last minute. I have at least made a (reasonable) dent on my list. I’ve learned from hard experience that toys, in particular, must be bought early on, lest you receive the dreaded “out of stock” message when clicking on that must-have item.

In part, my dillydallying is enabled by technology: With online retailers promising later and later deadlines for holiday delivery, I don’t have a sense of urgency to buy items early.

There’s a possible financial downside to waiting. Last-minute shoppers say they will spend an average of $304 in the final days leading up to Christmas, the survey found. But they may end up spending more than they had planned.

Visa says last-minute shoppers are vulnerable to “panic shopping,” in which they overspend because they are shopping in a hurry to get things in time for Christmas.

I know that feeling. When you wait too long and find items are out of stock, a comparable gift may cost a bit more — and still miss the mark.

A friend whose family owns a jewelry store told me that the busiest sales day is Christmas Eve, but it’s not necessarily the most profitable for the family’s business. Those who shop on the night before Christmas are usually desperate, and they often haven’t thought through their selections. As a result, the recipient is often unhappy — and ends up returning the item. As many as half of Christmas Eve purchases end up coming back, he said.

Have you finished your gift shopping? Did you stay within a budget?

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