Forget the fiscal cliff and global economic woes, shoppers have been out in force since beginning the holiday gifting season on Thanksgiving. The National Retail Federation reports that a record 247 million shoppers hit up stores and websites over Black Friday weekend and plunked down an estimated $59.1 billion on a bevy of items for the special people in their lives.
In keeping with the traditional retail theory that men buy and women shop, a Kelton survey for RetailMeNot, an online coupon site, finds that guys are planning to be generous givers this year, spending an average of $215 per person on gifts, while women clock in an $131 per person.
That doesn’t mean that men will be scouring shops and websites for that perfect item. Instead, the NRF found that men will be shelling out most of their dollars on gift cards, spending $172.98 versus women’s $141.66. Though store cards get low marks on the thoughtfulness meter, a whopping 81% of shoppers will purchase at least one this year and total spending on gift cards is expected to top $28.79 billion, according to an NRF survey.
Clothing and accessories are the most covetable indulgences for more than half of the consumers surveyed by RetailMeNot. Still, selecting something as simple as a scarf can turn out to be a tougher call than a well-meaning Santa’s helper may think. More than a third of Americans are sensitive to prickly fibers --even if they are not 100% wool-- not to mention very particular about styles and colors for just about every sweater, shirt or trousers they wear.
RetailMeNot found that 86% of working adults plan to shop online during business hours this year. It’s no surprise that parents are most likely to hit up e-commerce sites while at their desks. Besides not having to deal with squalling siblings, scouring the web for hard to find items keeps the element of surprise for the big day.
If you’re still on the fence about what to gift others (or request for yourself this year) Forbes polled the experts and pored over a plethora of choices to bring you the biggest hits and misses of the season. On the hit side of the ledger for children, the National Retail Federation says that this year gadgets are taking second (or third) place behind more traditional Barbie dolls and LEGO sets that promise to have staying power in kids' affections.
Among critics’ pans: the Furby. The updated version of the furry late '90s craze is in short supply or sold out at major retailers. That’s probably a good thing. Though it boasts a hefty $54 price tag (perhaps to compensate for new features) the talking toy lacks a simple on/off switch. Made to chatter --at people, iPads, and other Furbys-- the only way to disengage is to pull out its batteries.
Similarly, the Wii U is flying out of stores, but several reviewers rate it a skip. Its GamePad unit has poor battery life, writes Jeff Balaker of CNET, and its "lack of compelling exclusive software and an overall unpolished user experience make it tough to recommend in its current state.”