For Most Consumers, Plenty of Holiday Shopping Left to Do

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A general view of the exterior of the Cartier store wrapped with red ribbon in New York City, Dec. 12, 2012.

It’s an annual tradition: One day around mid-December, with clock ticking, it dawns on a large subset of consumers that they haven’t even started trying to complete their holiday shopping lists yet. For retailers, the scramble for procrastinating shopper dollars begins now.

On the one hand, it appears as if a larger-than-usual portion of consumers have already completed their holiday shopping. As of last week, 14% of shoppers were done, compared to 9% at the same time last year. By now, the proportion of annoyingly organized shoppers who have finished up all of their gift gathering is up to around 18%, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll.

That same poll indicates, however, that there’s a larger percentage (28%) of people who haven’t even started their holiday shopping, and a much, much larger group (58%) who said they’re not even halfway done with their lists.

New data from the National Retail Federation paints a slightly different picture. According to its most recent survey, the average consumer has gotten 56.5% of his or her holiday shopping out of the way by now (up from 46.5% at this time last year), though only 11% of shoppers report being completely done with their lists.

In any event, there’s nothing new about procrastination during the holiday shopping season. Last year, one survey revealed that 25% of consumers still hadn’t bought a single present by the time the weekend before Christmas rolled around. The fact that it’s so easy to buy gifts at the last-minute—thanks to expedited shipping and even same-day shipping for online purchases, and also due to the unstoppable popularity of gift cards—only makes procrastination easier, even sensible.

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After all, there are still several days left in which consumers can shop online and get free shipping on orders that’ll arrive by Christmas. In a PriceGrabber survey conducted at the end of November, 59% of consumers said they planned on taking advantage of Free Shipping Day, an annual event (taking place Monday, December 17 this year) in which thousands of retailers provide free shipping—and often, special discounts on top—to encourage shoppers into making last-minute purchases.

Like last year, Amazon has announced it’s extending free Super Saver Shipping deadline, with free shipping for all $25+ orders made by December 18, guaranteed to arrive by December 24. The legions of Amazon Prime members, who get free two-day shipping, can procrastinate even longer.

Certainly, many other sites will offer free last-minute shipping orders in the days to come, perhaps for orders placed as late as Friday, December 21, making the idea of there being a single “Free Shipping Day” seem silly. It’s been argued that Free Shipping Day has more or less become unnecessary because free shipping has become so common throughout the entire season. The entire year, really.

Heck, for that matter, while pretty much every day has turned into an unofficial “Free Shipping Day,” almost every day in the weeks leading up to Christmas can serve as a mini Cyber Monday, with periodic deals popping up as good as anything we saw on Cyber Monday or Black Friday. Just this past Monday, for instance—so-called “Green Monday”—several sites offered 40% and 45% off sitewide deals on par with days with bigger reputations for bargains.

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The reason these deals keep appearing nonstop is obvious: Big sales totals come as a result. According to comScore, Monday’s e-commerce haul was $1.275 billion, a 13% increase over last year’s Green Monday and the season’s third-biggest day overall for online shopping, coming after only Cyber Monday and the Tuesday that followed. By the time Free Shipping Day comes, the Green Monday-Free Shipping Day period may even wind up netting larger sales than Cyber Week.

Some of the rise in online shopping surely comes thanks to the increasingly popular practice of “showrooming,” in which consumers scope out merchandise in physical stores—only to make the actual purchase online, where it’s cheaper. In the PriceGrabber poll, slightly more than half of consumers said they planned on showrooming during the holiday shopping period.

The results of a new Harris Interactive poll, meanwhile, helps pinpoint how many shoppers have been showrooming (43% of consumers overall) and where they’re most likely to engage in the practice. It probably comes as little surprise that the two most popular spots for showrooming are Best Buy and Walmart. Even less of a surprise is the online retailer shoppers overwhelmingly visit going on a showrooming excursion: Yep, more often than not, it’s Amazon.

(MORE: Cyber Monday-Like Deals Kick Off Big Week for Online Retail)

The world’s largest online retailers was named as the post-showrooming site of choice by a ratio of more than 10:1 over the next most popular answers, eBay and Considering that there are many days ahead in which shoppers can expect free shipping from Amazon (and many other retailers) that’ll arrive by Christmas, stores should anticipate their aisles being crowded with showroomers for some time to come.