Behind the holiday trend of self-gifting

Mon Dec 8, 2014 8:11am EST
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By Beth Pinsker

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jill Bascou looked like a typical holiday gift shopper standing in line on Thanksgiving Day shortly after the Target in Marlton, New Jersey opened at 6 p.m.

Except she wasn't buying for other people.

The 39-year-old was waiting to get herself an iPad. In her cart was the xBox her husband had been coveting, and her father was in another part of the store hunting down a giant, cheap TV - for himself.

Retailers call this self-gifting. Look at a major store's circular advertising holiday gifts - from the $5 toasters at Kohl's to a $279 Dyson vacuum at Target - and you'll see the top draws are items people typically buy for themselves.

Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group, started tracking the trend of self-gifting six years ago, after interviewing a shopper on Black Friday at a Macy's.

The woman had a huge pile of clothes over one arm and a smaller pile on her other. Cohen was surprised to learn that woman was buying the big pile for herself. Her mother and sister were the designated recipients of the other pile.

Now 30 percent of purchases over the Thanksgiving holiday are attributed to self-gifting, Cohen says. Surveys from the National Retail Federation bear this out, showing that 77 percent of shoppers took advantage of discounts to buy for themselves over the holiday weekend.

Toys are the obvious exception, but almost everything else - the TVs, the home goods, even the clothing - are items that people are often buying for themselves.   Continued...

Thanksgiving Day shoppers ride an escalator while shopping at a Target store in Chicago, November 27, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Nelles