NEW YORK — Christmas shopping isn’t all about the giving. It seems a lot of consumers are also treating themselves to a little something new.
As a group, self-shoppers are growing, says Marshal Cohen, chief analyst of The NPD Group, a consumer insight company. He puts the number at 20 percent, up from 5 percent in the early 2000s.
“I started tracking people shopping for themselves about 10 years ago. I was at a Black Friday in a Macy’s in a suburban location in Long Island,” he recalls. “This woman has one arm filled with a few things, maybe a dress and a few sweaters, and another with 12 items.”
Guess which hand had the future presents for her two sisters and a friend?
It’s a similar scene in Loft stores this year, says Lori Leslie-Robbins, director of client experience for the retailer. “For us, the tell-tale sign that someone is shopping for themselves is that our fitting rooms stay busy for the holidays. She’s trying clothes on, and you don’t need to do that for a gift.”
Because of the deep discounts, shoppers see this as an opportunity to replenish their own wardrobes and homes with less guilt than buying the new pair of jeans, for example, at full price, he says. Those same shoppers might not feel that way about a gift for someone else.
He says the early-bird holiday shoppers were probably looking for the sales for themselves, while the transactions made closer to Christmas are more likely to be gifts. He can also tell by what you’re buying: If it’s electronics or footwear, it’s probably for you; fragrance is a go-to gift item, with 20 percent of annual sales happening in the five days before Christmas, according to NPD.
Many of the self-purchases Loft’s Leslie-Robbins sees in stores are those that solve problems or have a focused end use — those tend to alleviate that pang of guilt, she says.
Retailers need to adapt to the new holiday shopping dynamic, NPD’s Cohen says. It’s not just about glitzy limited-edition giftables, which don’t require much inventory. They’ll need to start to devote more space to the things they sell year-round, including apparel and beauty basics, sporting goods equipment and athletic gear.
“It’s almost like the impulse item is the gift, but the mission is for themselves,” he says. “Many do take opportunity to buy gifts that are there while they’re out there in the stores, but the early holiday shopper is more self-centered.”