On Your Holiday Shopping List This Year: You

Shoppers Embrace 'Self-Gifting' and Take Advantage of Season's Deals

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A new person is appearing on shoppers' holiday gift lists this year, themselves.

With retailers offering the best deals of the year on everything from electronics to home decor to apparel, consumers are taking advantage of deals to snap up items for themselves and non-gift items for their families. According to the National Retail Federation, six in 10 planned to buy non-gift items this holiday season, spending an average of $130, up from $112 a year ago.

Gap is promoting is promoting sleepwear as the perfect gift to give yourself.
Gap is promoting is promoting sleepwear as the perfect gift to give yourself.
"Everything we're seeing indicates there are more impulse purchases than a year ago, that we're going back to 2006, 2007 levels," said Ellen Davis, VP at the National Retail Federation. "We've talked to a lot of people who are saying, 'it was such a good deal, I couldn't pass it up.' Certainly that 's something that 's been absent in the past few years."

Research from Shopper Sciences, part of IPG's Mediabrands, found that a majority of shoppers spent more on themselves than on friends and family during the post-Thanksgiving shopping period. And 80% of shoppers surveyed spent more than they planned to. John Ross, CEO of Shopper Sciences, theorizes that retailers' "playbook" of hot items that are heavily promoted during the holidays includes more categories than is typical, as a means of tempting shoppers.

"It looks like retailers across the board widened the draw of their promotional assortment to appeal to a broader audience," Mr. Ross said. "Shoppers have actively tried to be less impulsive and haven't been spending on themselves for some time. Some of this self-purchasing may be the permission to reward yourself if the deal is just good enough."

Some retailers are even marketing the concept of self-gifting. NRF recently highlighted J.Crew, which featured a "Gift Yourself" section on its website, along with the text "To: You, From: You." And this week Gap is promoting sleepwear as the perfect gift to give yourself: "Tuck Yourself In: Dots, pops of color, and soft flannel -- perfectly sized sleepwear just for you. Give (yourself!) the gift of good sleep."

Promoting self-giving is a balancing act, as overt attempts could be rebuffed by consumers. But Mr. Ross says he'd advise retailers to pursue the strategy. "To the extent that retailers can change their ads, we'd be advising them to do it," he said. "It appears to be something that the shopper is already embracing."

But while self-gifting is good news for retailers in the near term, in the long term it could prove problematic, Ms. Davis said. "Many went into the holidays thinking, 'I need a new laptop, but I'll wait until the prices are good,'" she explained. "If consumers are waiting for the holidays, that creates a challenge for retailers [trying to] pull shoppers in the other 10 months of the year. It's a blessing during the holidays and a curse the rest of the year."

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