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By Adam Hardy
October 29, 2021
View from behind of a woman with paper bags on the shoulder.
Money; Getty Images

Shoppers face a conundrum this holiday season. Start shopping too early, and you might be playing into retailers' hands and wind up overspending in the long run. But by waiting too long, you could miss out on hot gift items that wind up being sold out due to shortages and supply-chain issues.

Retail executives are all but banking on you to start shopping sooner than ever this year. According to consulting firm Deloitte’s 2021 holiday retail survey, 67% of industry executives expect holiday shopping to begin at least one or two weeks sooner than normal, and 73% of them anticipate shoppers will spend “significantly more” this year.

These two factors, timing and spending, are related. Many shoppers think that they are being smart and will save money by shopping early in the season. But Deloitte’s research found that those who start shopping sooner spend more. A lot more.

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“Those [who] start shopping earlier are expected to spend 23% more than those who start on or after Thanksgiving,” the report stated.

This isn’t news to retailers. A phenomenon called “holiday creep” or “Christmas creep” long predates the pandemic. In short, retailers advertise "pre-Black Friday" holiday sales and encourage consumers to start shopping earlier, presumably so that they spend more.

A Wall Street Journal report suggests retailers are leaning into that messaging heavily this year. And they’re using labor and supply shortages as the rationale. The websites of several major retailers, including Target, L.L. Bean and Lands' End, spell out their supply-chain woes directly to consumers, the Journal reported.

Should you go holiday shopping early this season?

Retailers have long used sales and other gimmicks to get consumers to shop early for the holidays. This year, it appears that they have legitimate reasons to urge you to do so. Does that mean you should frantically purchase all of your holiday items today? Probably not.

Remember, the earlier you start shopping, the more likely it is for you to spend more. With this in mind, you should craft a strategic shopping plan to curb those effects.

Note that the semiconductor chip shortage could put a damper on some of your big-ticket purchases. TVs, gaming consoles and laptops rely on these chips, which means they could be hard to come by. And if you do find them, they’re probably going to be more expensive than you might expect during the holidays. Such items may be worth buying sooner. For smaller items, it could pay off to wait until Black Friday or Cyber Monday.

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