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Americans Making a List but Checking it Twice this Holiday Season

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Americans are making their lists and checking them twice this holiday season, as more shoppers say they’re setting a budget this year (72% vs. 65% in 2013), according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. After an optimistic 2013, the average American consumer is back to spending at 2012 levels, and will plan to shell out $842 this year (vs. $1,260 in 2013 and $848 in 2012). Whatever they spend, shoppers will be using their personal devices for more than just selfies, as shopping on smartphones and tablets has jumped over the last two years.

View/download the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker

“Many Americans are planning ahead before the holiday shopping season, setting a budget and using their personal technology to make sure they’re getting the best deals,” said David Rabkin, Senior Vice President of Consumer Products. “This will enhance an already competitive retail environment, as empowered shoppers use more efficient ways to get the most out of their holiday budgets.”

Holiday Shopping Season Stretches, In-Store and Online

The Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday battle rages on, with Black Friday regaining an edge this year as the more popular day to hit the stores. However, retailers may see a slower-than-normal Thanksgiving week, as less than half of Americans plan to shop Black Friday (48% vs. 52% in 2013), and even fewer say they’ll shop Cyber Monday (46% vs. 55% in 2013), dropping for the first time since 2010.
[Editor’s note: Small Business Saturday falls on November 29 this year, during which hundreds of neighborhoods will mobilize their communities to support their local small businesses.]

These numbers may be misleading, as Americans will spread their shopping over the holiday season again this year — even before the fall chill sets in, with more than a quarter of shoppers reporting they started holiday shopping before October (on par with 2013). And although some have a head start, 60% will continue shopping in the final stretch from December 15 – December 24 (vs. 58% in 2013), including 7% who expect to shop on Christmas Eve (vs. 4% in 2013).

Merry Mobile Moments

While many get a rush from in-store shopping, using smartphones and tablets to shop for the holidays has grown by 53% since 2012. Mobile will play a big role in decision making and actual purchases this year, with consumers saying they will use their gadgets to:

  • Make purchases (+ 46% since 2013)
  • Access deals through a mobile app (+ 46% since 2013)
  • Visit different websites to compare prices (+23% since 2013)
  • Browse for gift ideas (+8% since 2013)

Gift Buying Fear? Give a Gift Card This Year

Gift lists overall are getting shorter as Americans say they’ll buy presents for fewer people in their lives this year (average of 8 vs. 9 in 2013). And though down from last year, it comes as no surprise that gift cards are still the most popular present (55% vs. 61% in 2013). They may just be the gift that keeps on giving: according the survey, 16% of Americans claim they will apply unused gift cards to help stretch their budgets (up from 11% in 2013).

The top five gifts this year are:

Item 2014 2013 2012
Gift Cards 55% 61% 55%
Clothing and Accessories 48% 59% 48%
Toys and Games 43% 51% 44%
Electronics 28% 34% 29%
Music 26% 38% 30%

About the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker

The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of 1,500 adults, including the general U.S. population, as well as an affluent demographic defined by a minimum annual household income of $100,000. Interviewing was conducted by Ebiquity, formerly Echo Research, between September 17 -20, 2014. The results reported have an overall margin of error of +/- 2.5 at the 95 percent level of confidence.

About American Express

American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at and connect with us on,,,, and

Key links to products and services: charge and credit cards, business credit cards, travel services, gift cards, prepaid cards, merchant services, business travel, and corporate card.

About Ebiquity, Plc.

Ebiquity are independent marketing performance specialists. Ebiquity enables brands across the world to make better informed decisions to improve their brand and business performance across integrated communications channels. Learn more at

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