Retail

Skip the Stress: Our Short and Sweet Holiday Gift-Giving Guide

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Does she like pink or blue?
Is this jacket his size?
My niece already has everything, what could she possibly want?
Should I just give them money?

…And so goes the natural train of thought each and every holiday season. Buying gifts for friends and family can be daunting, no matter how well you know them. Luckily, we’re here to give you some data-driven information that might help put you at ease, so you can focus on the important things (food and family, of course).

In this short post, we uncover:

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What your friends and family prefer to give as gifts.
What your friends and family prefer to receive as gifts
Which gifts are most often returned or exchanged.

Let’s start with what to avoid:

“That’s the Ugliest Skirt I’ve Ever Seen!” (real-life quote)

the majority of Americans (64%) don't return holiday gifts.

First, take a deep breath. 64% of people that we asked say that they rarely or never return gifts. So, keep that in mind as you go on your holiday shopping spree. It’s more likely than not that your gift recipients will be more than happy with what you give them.

But for the time being, let’s take out these low maintenance gift recipients (who are more likely to be over 55) who never or rarely return holiday gifts. When we do that, here’s what we find:

Clothing and accessories are the most commonly returned holiday gifts.

Clothing and accessories are the gifts most likely to be returned – by a long shot. The other returns don’t even approach the high 69%. Clothing is distantly followed by those who most often return home decorations or technology-related gifts.

The least returned gifts? They’re tied between experiences (such as concert tickets), food-related gifts and household supplies.

A few other notable insights:

  • People who answer health and beauty gifts are more likely to be under 18.
  • People who answer technology-related gifts are more likely to be 18-34.
  • People who answer technology-related gifts are more likely to be men.
  • People who answer home decorations are more likely to earn over $100k per year.
  • People who answer home decorations are more likely to live in a city.
  • People who answer clothing and accessories are more likely to live in the Suburbs.

And the Top Gifts of 2016 Are…

Now that we know what people don’t want, we have to ask, what do they want?Most people would prefer to receive gift cards as holiday gifts

Surprised? Holiday gift cards take the cake! Though many worry that these gifts may not seem genuine enough for a holiday present, the numbers don’t lie. This all-in-one present is closely followed by physical gifts, and then experiences.

It’s also worth noting that 22% of people have no strong opinion on what type of gift they would like to receive, so go nuts! Take it easy on yourself as you decide which gifts to buy!

Some notable insights about these folks to help you choose the perfect gift:

  • People who answer gift card are more likely to be over 55.
  • People who answer an experience are more likely to donate to environmental charities.
  • People who answer an experience are more likely to be 18-34.
  • People who answer physical gift are more likely to earn over $100k per year.

Interestingly enough, these numbers don’t quite match up with what people prefer to give as holiday gifts.

Gift-Giving 101

This data is important to highlight. Many people have friends and family members that generally ask for input before buying their holiday gifts. Taking their preferences as gift-givers into consideration is just a nice thing to do – and that is in the holiday spirit after all. Most people would prefer to give a physical gift as a holiday gift, instead of holiday gift cards.

As you can see, most give-givers prefer to buy physical holiday gifts, such as electronics or clothing. Holiday gifts cards lag quite a bit behind. Due to the lack of effort required to purchase gift cards, gift-givers may consider them an inadequate present. It also may be because gift-givers want to see their gifts unwrapped. However, there are no shortage of ways to creatively wrap a gift card!

It’s interesting that this data on what people want to give doesn’t quite match up with what people want to receive.  It’s actually a bit confusing:

People most often return clothing and electronics, but…
People prefer to give physical gifts, such as clothing and electronics.

People prefer to receive gift cards but…
People don’t prefer to give gift cards.

Oy Vey.

Lastly, here are some further insights about the givers:

  • People who answer physical gift are more likely to be under 18.
  • People who answer gift card and no strong opinion are more likely to be over 55.
  • People who answer an experience are more likely to be 18-34.

That Was a Lot – Let’s Review!

No wonder the holiday season can be so stressful! Luckily, this year it doesn’t have to be! If you want to play it safe, stick to:

#1: Holiday gift cards
#2: Physical gifts (specifically food-related gifts and household supplies) but NOT clothing and accessories. That’s risky business.
#3: Experiences, such as concert tickets or a class! Though the specifics of these experiences will naturally vary person to person, they seem to be a hit all around!


Check out these other holiday insights, including the plight of holiday shoppers and the yays and nays of Christmas retail!

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