What's Hot For Holiday Sales

Danielle Beurteaux

Man holding gift bags --- Image by © Ocean/CorbisIf you’ve left your gift shopping to last minute again, just take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. According to a recent survey of shoppers who still haven’t finished their gift buying, more than half are waiting until Christmas Eve. Practical or procrastinating? Either way, with discounts continuing from the beginning of the holiday season, no one seems to be in a holiday rush.

Some stores are accommodating this by staying open until late Christmas Eve. Walmart will stay open until 8 p.m. on December 24th, and Target until 11 p.m. (and likely reprising the arguments about making retail employees work during holidays). Some, like Best Buy, won’t extend hours on the 24th but are staying open later on the days leading up to Christmas.

Part of the problem—apart from shoppers waiting later than ever, often with the aim of scoring even better deals—is that retail analysts are predicting a flat holiday season. The National Retail Federation is predicting a 3.7% increase this year—not bad, but not great either. Consumers still have the economy on their minds, and are expected to reign in overall spending.

So what are shoppers buying this year? A slight change from recent seasons—they’re not necessarily looking for great deals on expensive products. Instead, many are budgeting for and buying less expensive items to begin with, another sign of insecurity about the economy and personal finance, and also a suspicion that sales are smoke and mirrors.

But what will do well this holiday season? Some predict e-commerce will see healthy numbers this holiday, with a 14 percent increase in gift buying online over last year. However, some retailers are using slower means to fulfill their free shipping to save money, which means a slower path to buyers.

To add to the this year’s gift-giving confusion, there’s also some controversy over a few of the popular, big-ticket items.

Take hoverboards. The list of airlines that won’t allow them on flights at all—not carry-on, and not checked—has increased to include most major carriers, which means the only flying the earth-bound boards will do is when they hit a bump. Something about concerns that their lithium-ion batteries could blow up mid-flight…

Drones are predicted to be a popular gift item. They’ll also need to be registered with the FAA, according to a new rule that was just implemented. Once a device is registered, the owner will received a tail number which must be visible on it. In case you’re tempted to skip this step, the fines are steep–$275,000 for civil infractions (for criminal, you’re talking fines plus jail time).

But everything old is new again for the most popular children’s gifts, according to the National Retail Federation. Anything Star Wars, Lego, Barbie dolls, and video games are all on kids’ lists this year.

If those don’t work out for you, there’s always that Brookstone Thing for Your Feet.

Looking for more last-minute holiday tips? See 5 Ways To Give Thanks This Holiday Season.

Danielle Beurteaux

About Danielle Beurteaux

Danielle Beurteaux is a New York–based writer who covers business, technology, and philanthropy. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and on Popular Mechanics, CNN, and Institutional Investor's Alpha, among other outlets.