Drake performs at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
Prince Williams—WireImage
By Kristen Bahler
December 16, 2019

This season of excess, more Americans are adding secondhand gifts and “experiences” to their wish lists.

Marking a dramatic shift from the scarves and slippers that traditionally fill holiday gift packages, new data points to growing consumer awareness of environmental waste, climate change, and the impact rampant consumerism has on both. And it’s changing the way people shop.

Half of consumers polled by the market research firm Mintel say they would prefer cooking classes and concert tickets over tangible presents, up from 17% in 2018.

By a similar token, 56% of respondents to an Accenture survey said they would welcome secondhand clothes over brand new items.

“This is where we’re going forward as consumers are shopping more with their values and with social consciousness,” Diana Smith, associate director for retail and apparel at Mintel told the New York Times. “People are defined more these days not by what they own but what they value, and their buying habits are reflecting that.”

There’s still a disconnect between what consumers want and what their loved ones actually buy them. This Black Friday was one of the biggest e-shopping days in history, and a record 189.6 million Americans bought goods online and in stores from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, according to the National Retail Federation. Only 7% of those shoppers bought something at a thrift store, a NRF representative told the Times.

Still, alternative gifts are on the rise, particularly for “experiences” — a broad category that includes things like skydiving and spelunking, museum tickets, food tours, and online and in-person classes on everything from wine tasting to creative writing.

December gift card sales at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, a professional theater venue, have grown 28% over the last five years, according to the Chicago Tribune. One thousand miles East, the Boston Symphony Orchestra has already sold 22% more gift certificates compared to last holiday season, the Times reports.

People want “lasting memories versus the gift that might be the big wow for a week or a month but will be forgotten,” a travel agent told the Times. “They realize that these are the experiences that last a lifetime.”

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