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10 ways holiday shopping is different in 2014

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Hanukkah is underway and Christmas is coming up in a few days.

Has holiday shopping been different for you this year?

DealNews says there are some significant differences between this holiday shopping season and last year's. Here’s its list:

1. More consumers shopping online.

The average shopper will do 44 percent of his or her total shopping online this year, according to the annual National Retail Federation's Holiday Consumer Spending Survey. And while 51.5percentof shoppers last year reported that they planned to shop online at all, 56 percent will shop online this year, the most in the survey's 13-year history.

In-store shopping has been steadily decreasing, from 38 billion "visits" in November and December in 2010 to 17 billion last year, although sales increased during the time frame $681 to $783 billion. This year, the federation found that shoppers are expected to spend more on gifts this year, on everyone including their families, co-workers, and pets.

2. More use of mobile devices.

While one-third of tablet owners will make purchases from their tablets, a record high of 19.1 percent of smartphone owners reported they’ll use their smartphones to make purchases this year.

Shoppers also are using mobile phones in stores. According to the federation, 35.8 percent of smartphone shoppers use their phones to research products and prices, while a Google/Nielsen study found that 93 percent of those shoppers proceed to make a purchase, usually in a store.

One-third of consumers interviewed for a Google study said they’d use their phones to find the information they need rather than asking a store employee. More phones are being used at the cash registers with 23.9 percent of shoppers using phones to redeem coupons, while 30 percent will use phones to pay for items with Apple Pay and Google Wallet.

3. Packages arrive seven days a week.

Amazon struck a deal in November 2013 with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver packages daily in New York and Los Angeles, expanding to more than 20 areas throughout 2014. In early November, the Postal Service announced it would deliver packages seven days a week — not just those from Amazon — in major cities and high-volume areas through Christmas Day. The holiday schedule is in response to an expected 12 percent growth in the volume of shipped packages, estimated to reach 450 to 470 million this holiday season.

4. Earlier shipping deadlines.

About 79 percent of retailers will set deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery at least a week before the holiday, up from 74 percent in 2013, according to a survey. Only 21 percent will allow online shoppers to purchase an item to be delivered in time for Christmas after December 19, down from 26 percent last year.

That means fewer consumers will be disappointed this year. In 2013, UPS and FedEx were overwhelmed by last-minute holiday orders and bad weather, leaving thousands of consumers without the gifts they'd ordered. UPS is also hiring more seasonal employees this year to make sure the delays don't happen again.

If you do wait until the last minute, however, one in five companies surveyed by the federation is planning to offer free or expedited shipping until December 23.

5. Earlier shipping, earlier shipping deals.

Shipping deals will start earlier this year. However, 83 percent of consumers would rather wait a few extra days for shipping if it were free, according to a comScore survey.

6. Everything happens earlier this year.

The first holiday-themed ad this year is probably Kmart's layaway spot in August, bringing Christmas into the summer. Holiday shopping has also been heavily linked to Black Friday – 84 percent of DealNews readers planned to buy gifts during the big shopping event – and even Black Friday has expanded into a full season, with sales starting in mid-October.

7. Lower gas prices and more travel.

AAA projects 98.6 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the holidays, an increase of 4 percent from the 94.8 million people who traveled last year. This is the highest rate of increase since 2009 and the highest travel volume since 2001.

Lower gas prices are giving consumers more cash to spend on travel this year as travelers are expected to pay the lowest prices since 2009.

8. More gaming console deals.

Last year, DealNews didn't see deals for the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but this year it’s seen plenty of discounts for Black Friday. So this might be the year to put a console on your holiday wish list.

9. More gift card giving.

Gift cards are the most requested gift item for the eighth year in a row, according to the federation. There's good news for the 62 percent of those planning to ask for gift cards this year: Physical and digital gift cards are expected to reach an all-time high this season.

10. Increased spirit of giving

Shoppers report they’ll be spending less on themselves this year — reversing a "self-gifting" trend — and instead will focus buying gifts for others, according to the federation survey.

Best wishes with your holiday shopping and celebrations.

Copyright 2014, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist


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