A new US consumer survey suggests consumers have welcomed the longer shopping season, with more than 40% of holiday shoppers starting earlier than they normally do and clothing once again topping consumer shopping lists.  

According to the annual survey released by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics, as of early November, 59% of holiday shoppers say they had started making purchases, a 21% rise from a decade ago.

Even so, there is still plenty of shopping left to do. On average, holiday shoppers say they have completed only 26% of their shopping so far.

“Retailers have demonstrated their commitment and ability to ensure safe shopping environments for their customers and their associates,” says NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “With consumers looking to fulfill their gift lists earlier this year, retailers are prepared to meet that demand with deep discounts, robust inventory and providing the best experiences possible whether in-store or online.” 

Retailers’ top priority is the health and safety of their employees and customers, and these investments are paying off. A large majority (70%) of holiday shoppers say that, given the precautions retailers have taken for Covid-19, they have felt safe shopping in stores this holiday season. 

Retailers began stocking their shelves with holiday inventory and offering holiday promotions as early as October. As a result, 69% of holiday shoppers say they are able to find the items they are looking for all or most of the time, and 84% are confident they will receive items they order online in time for the holidays.

“Consumers have welcomed the longer shopping season, where many retailers have chosen to offer deals before and leading up to the traditional Thanksgiving and Black Friday doorbusters,” Prosper executive vice president of strategy Phil Rist says. “These additional offerings translate to more options for holiday shoppers in the long run.”

Similar to recent years, clothing and accessories are the most popular gift category, according to 54% of those surveyed, followed by gift cards/gift certificates (49%), toys (37%), books and other media (34%), and food/candy (28%).

The survey of 8,362 adult consumers was conducted 2-9 November and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.1 percentage points.