Shop early and often is the new holiday strategy

If a Synchrony Financial survey correctly predicts how this year’s holiday gift-buying season will unfold, shoppers won’t be jamming stores in the traditional Christmas Eve rush for last-minute bargains.

The banking services and credit card provider surveyed 1,600 shoppers and found that more than a quarter had already bought gifts they planned to put under the tree. In addition, over 40 percent weren’t waiting until “Black Friday” after Thanksgiving to begin purchasing, and a total of two-thirds expect to wrap up their shopping by mid-December.

Synchrony points to a couple of reasons why this is happening. Since employment is up, more people feel comfortable spending money, and they’re spending it on more people: 60 percent of participants say they’ll “splurge” on holiday shopping.

And with longer shopping lists, they’ve already started to look — in stores and online — for gifts. For those who don’t want to bother, 67 percent are giving gift cards to friends and relatives.

ut since shoppers still want bargains, they’re carefully comparing online prices with those in the stores. According to the survey, 85 percent look for sales, and almost 60 percent set a holiday budget, which nearly eight out of 10 claim they actually adhere to.

Smartphones have become an integral part of the purchase process for both in-store and online shopping. Synchrony found 82 percent of shoppers say they regularly comparison shop to get the best price. They use their phones not only to research prices and products, but to find and redeem coupons for their purchases.

More than half of holiday shoppers say the best deals are online, and 37 percent admit they plan to do more of this year’s gift buying online. Online shopping is convenient because it gives consumers the ability to shop any time and find variety, competitive shipping offers and faster delivery options.

But even though online sales represent a growing share of total spending, stores remain the primary purchase channel for the vast majority of holiday shoppers. More than 60 percent of gift buyers report holiday shopping is still more fun in the stores. And for last-minute purchases, stores are definitely more appealing.

“Black Friday” shopping is on the agenda for more than 60 percent of shoppers, while nearly that many plan to buy gifts on Cyber Monday. For many, Thanksgiving is no longer a family day — unless the family goes shopping. An estimated 30 percent plan to beat the “Black Friday” rush by shopping on Turkey Day.

Here are some tips from Synchrony to help with the holiday shopping season:

  • Compile a list — digital is best — and keep it updated. This will help you budget purchases and find deals throughout the year, as well as provide insight into your spending.
  • Social media sites can be a good resource for what’s hot on wish lists across age groups, as well as the best time to shop before the holiday.
  • Many store credit cards offer special savings during the holiday season for cardholders. When making major purchases, a lot of account holders use low-rate financing offers as a budget-management tool and pay the balance in full before the promotional period ends.