NPD Study Looks At How Consumers Shopped For Holiday 2011 And How It Sets The Stage For 2012

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Women are still showing their thrifty-ness but did indulge in some 'self-gifting.'

Marshal Cohen, Chief Industry Analyst, The NPD Group, Inc.

According to the results of a new study released by The NPD Group, Inc., a leading market research company, women were more frugal and more thrifty then men in their spending for holiday gifts this past season.

When asked if they cut back on the amount they spent, and if they cut back on the number of gifts they bought a greater percentage of women cut back then men. When asked if they bought items on sale, shopped in less expensive stores and bought more practical or thrifty gifts again a higher percentage of women answered ‘Yes.’

SEE CHART: Did you do any of the following during your holiday shopping?

“We had been seeing a decidedly frugal mindset in the female consumer in the earlier part of 2011,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc., “and based on these results it would appear that women have held to that through the holiday season”

How did men and women evaluate this year’s promotions compared to last year’s? The study’s results showed that both genders felt that this holiday season’s ‘sales’ were better than last year’s.

The majority (close to 40 percent) of both men and women told NPD that this year’s sales were much or a little better than last year’s. A little more than one third of men and women said that the ‘sales’ were about the same. Approximately 10 percent of both genders said the sales last year’s sales were much better.

“Sales played a huge role in holiday this year. Retailers used door-busters, special sales, discounts, and discounts on top of discounts to lure the consumer in and it worked,” said Cohen, “But it also ‘front loaded’ holiday sales and that made holiday look good on the surface posting higher dollar volumes but ultimately it will challenge margins.”

Retailers looked for new ways to interact with consumers this holiday. NPD’s study asked consumers about their cell phone or smart phone usage during their holiday shopping. The most often cited reason that both men and women said they used their phones during the holiday season was to ‘research a product.’

See Chart: In which of the following ways, if any, did you use your cellphone/smartphone during this holiday season?

“I think it is becoming clear that there is a growing market for this kind of consumer engagement,” said Cohen, “While the 4 percent of consumers that told us they used smart phones to make a purchase doesn’t sound like a lot, remember it was less than a decade ago that only 3 percent of consumers told us they shopped online,” noted Cohen.

This year the item most often received as a gift was an apparel item with 49 percent. The second most often received item was a gift card. Thirty-four percent of men said they received a gift card and 42 percent of women said they did. The third most received item was an electronic item with approximately 20 percent of both men and women saying they received that as a gift.

“There just wasn’t a lot of new product out there this year, so people relied on the ‘tried and true’ to give as gifts,” said Cohen. “In other non-apparel categories the items that were new or innovative, as a general rule, did very well.”

NPD studies conducted earlier in the season pointed to a lot of self-gifting activity during the early part of the holiday retail season. In this post-holiday study 50 percent of women told NPD they bought something for themselves during the course of their holiday shopping while 40 percent of men said they bought something for themselves.

“Women were the ones that told us they cut back on their spending, cut back on the number of people on their lists and in general were more thrifty in their gift shopping,” said Cohen, “So they felt more comfortable about rewarding themselves for being so frugal and there were a lot deals that were hard to pass up.”

“As 2012 takes shape we should be on the lookout for more retailers to work with the triggers that compelled consumers to make a holiday purchase,” noted Cohen, “Look for ‘new traditions’ like extended hours, weekend sales, double discounts and ‘indulge yourself’ pitches to entice consumers this year.”

Methodology: The NPD Group, Inc.’s post-holiday of consumer’s holiday buying behavior was fielded to a statistically representative sample of 2500 U.S. Adults, 18+ through NPD’s consumer panel. The study was fielded from December 27, 2011 to January 5, 2012.

About The NPD Group, Inc.
The NPD Group is the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries. Today, more than 2,000 manufacturers, retailers, and service companies rely on NPD to help them drive critical business decisions at the global, national, and local market levels. NPD helps our clients to identify new business opportunities and guide product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, and other functions. Information is available for the following industry sectors: automotive, beauty, entertainment, fashion, food, home and office, sports, technology, toys, video games, and wireless. For more information, contact us, visit, or follow us Twitter at


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