Sleigh Bells Ring in October

Sleigh Bells Ring in October

It’s October, traditionally the season where our wallets overindulge in Halloween candy and all things pumpkin spice. However, for some consumers it marks the start to a very early holiday shopping season—and retailers are taking note. Signs of a “Holiday Creep”—when retailers start to merchandise and decorate stores to drive sales for a given holiday, often months in advance—can be seen in stores across the country. Ready or not—the holiday season has arrived.

In fact, a recent Nielsen survey shows that close to one-quarter of U.S. consumers (23%) jump started their holiday shopping in September. This early start is a good sign that consumer confidence levels going into the holiday season may be on an upswing. Still, the U.S. consumer confidence level in the second quarter decreased six index points from the quarter before to a score of 101. While is slightly above the baseline level of optimism, uncertainty still permeates the consumer mindset. More than half of Americans still feel the effects of the recession, and nearly 40% are living paycheck to paycheck


Despite economic concerns, holiday spending levels this year are expected to be consistent with 2014, with an increase of 2.0% in forecasted dollar sales. Again, multicultural consumers are driving the increased spend. This uptick in spending will be reflected in higher levels of online spending and to a lesser extent in traditional channels. In fact, 75% of consumers who are holiday shopping this year, reported that they plan on shopping online, followed by brick and mortar mass merchandisers (74%) and department stores (72%).

Of the consumers who have opened their wallets, who are the early bird shoppers? Across the board, families are stocking up the earliest as are Millennials and affluent households with incomes over six figures. 

However, while many are jumping into the holiday season early, many feel there’s still time to shop. According to our shopping tracker found in Nielsen’s Holiday Headquarters, where we’re providing a weekly snapshot of the number of people who have started their holiday shopping, 62% of U.S. consumers aren’t quite in the holiday shopping mindset yet and are planning to wait. 

Learn more about this holiday’s most eager shoppers—”Gift Splurgers”—in our most recent Local Watch report


The insights in this article were derived from two custom studies: An English-language consumer survey of more than 25,000 U.S. households in September 2015 and sales forecasts from an analysis of 87 categories covering five departments representing more than $500 billion in sales annually in the alcohol, dairy, dry grocery, health and beauty and non-food grocery space.