Experiential Gifts Gain Traction this Holiday Season

Subscription services for food, beverages, electronics, health/fitness, fashion and more are also popular gift categories among consumers.

NORTH AMERICA–This year, roughly 39 percent holiday shoppers will replace traditional wrapped packages with experiential gifts (such as wine tastings, concert tickets and spa treatments), according to The NPD Group.

The NDP Group’s findings are part of the company’s 2017 Holiday Purchase Intention’s Survey, which found that purchase intent is down across multiple general merchandise categories.

“When store displays show off the same old sweaters, or the hot kitchen appliance is sold out in stores, consumers are faced with a gifting dilemma,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Giving an intangible gift, an experience, can be more personal and more memorable for the gift-recipient, and in many ways easier for the gift-giver, making them an ideal holiday gift solution for many consumers.”

The survey also found that while experiential gifts are becoming more and more popular, subscription services are also gaining traction among consumers, with 7 percent of shoppers planning to purchase a subscription box or service as a gift this season. Within the subscription box category, the most popular categories were food subscriptions, followed by beverages, electronics, health/fitness, fashion and beauty/grooming subscriptions.

The trend also illuminates generational divisions, with purchase intent for experimental gifts proving strongest among Generation Z and Millennial shoppers as well as households with children and annual incomes over $75,000.

Similarly, gift cards have been proven to be more popular among higher income households and those with children; however, The NPD Group has found that Gen Z is the least likely to purchase them. Despite Generation Z’s noted disinterest, gift card purchasing has shown a small uptick this season, reaching 45 percent of consumers.

“Gen Z and Millennials think to give experiential gifts because that is what they seek–people like to give what they want themselves,” says Cohen. “Whether shoppers are looking for more unique gifts in general, or reacting to current retail offerings, the popularity of intangible gifts poses a very real threat to traditional retail.”

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