It's that time of year again. Each day that passes means one less shopping day until we exchange presents and then pretend we like what we got. So make your lists and check them twice, because you've got some shopping to do.
According to a nationally representative survey conducted exclusively for American Demographics by Rochester, N.Y.-based market research firm Harris Interactive, 95 percent of adults age 18 and over plan to buy gifts this holiday season. The online poll of 2,074 adults was fielded between September 26 and 30, 2003.
Just who is most likely to give? Our findings reveal that women are often more generous than men: Nearly two-thirds of women (65 percent) say they plan to buy gifts for their children, while just over half of men (53 percent) share that goal. In the same vein, over half of women plan to buy for siblings, but less than half of men are as generous. And 54 percent of women compared with only 37 percent of men plan to lavish gifts on friends or neighbors.
Why is this not surprising? Social and psychological theorists have long held that women tend to operate according to a different morality from men, one that elevates responsibility and connecting with others over more selfish pursuits. In the hunter-gatherer societies in which we evolved, women organized their lives around procuring resources, whether food or shelter. That same innate need is expressed when women forage for goodies for those Christmas stockings for the kids or for something to slide under the tree.
When it comes to presents for relatives, consumers who live in households with children have a greater tendency to give gifts to others than those who are childfree. For example, 70 percent of adults with children at home plan to buy their parents a gift versus only 54 percent of those in childless homes. Perhaps the hope of reciprocity or the knowledge of a child's needs plays a role in making parents more giving. Almost half of adults in households with children plan to buy for nieces or nephews, but only one-third of those in childless households plan to be as magnanimous.
Some of the busiest shoppers are Boomer women, who range in age from 35 to 54 in this survey. Over three-quarters (77 percent) of Boomer women plan to shop for their children this season compared with only 59 percent of Boomer men. These same women are also quite pragmatic. A larger share of them seem to regard gifts as something that opens doors and more of them plan to give co-workers or bosses a little something than their male counterparts.
Although the vast majority of adults say they'll buy gifts this holiday season, only half (53 percent) plan to spend as much as they did last year. Close to one-third (28 percent) say they will likely spend less than last year. Among them, 61 percent say personal savings are a major factor in the decision to cut back, and one-third cite the state of the U.S. economy. Another 15 percent of respondents are more optimistic: they plan to throw away more money on gifts.
To locate just the right gift, most of us will head to a superstore (67%), the mall (66 percent) or department store (61 percent). A little more than 1 in 2 (52 percent) say they will visit a specialty store. Those in the 18- to 44-age-group are more likely than average to favor the latter. One-third hope to order products from print catalogs. The convenience of shopping online could translate into a bountiful holiday season for e-tailers, as close to half of online adults (47 percent) say they intend to shop via the Internet.
Sometimes the hardest part of the holiday season is deciding what to give one's relatives and acquaintances. Regardless of where you shop, getting people what they want just got a little easier. Our survey finds that gift certificates or cash take the lead as the No. 1 gift category for this year: 3 in 10 adults 18 and older prefer to make their own buying decisions, gift card or cash in hand, while only 17 percent say they would prefer receiving clothing or jewelry. Just 11 percent say they would prefer electronics or computers. For most of us, it's not just the thought that counts.
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