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Wonder what gift you’re getting this holiday? The data knows

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We’re not in the habit at the Signifyd blog of giving away holiday gift surprises — but you’re getting a smartphone. 

Sorry if we wrecked it. And in fact, maybe you’re not getting a phone. You might be getting a video game, sneakers, something to protect your new phone with, or something to play your new video game on.

Or maybe a T-shirt.

The truth is we don’t really know; we can only guess based on the data.

So your surprise is intact and you don’t have to hate us. In fact, pat us on the back for giving you the material with which to dream about incoming gifts. By crunching the numbers of what’s hot online during this holiday shopping season  — this season with one of the earliest starts yet — we’ve assembled a list of the Top 25 gifts based on online sales in September and October.

List of the top selling holiday gift items according to Signifyd Ecommerce Pulse Data

Yes, September and October — the unofficial start of the unofficial holiday shopping season.

What’s that you say? It’s not the holiday shopping season? We’ve just finished with Halloween and haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving. Ah, see you’re thinking logically. Consumers this year are not.

Shortages define this holiday season

In 2021, we’re faced with a different sort of holiday shopping season. We’ve got shortages predicted because of supply chain disruptions, a challenging staffing situation for retailers, pent up demand from consumers. And for the fortunate, we’ve got a surplus of disposable incomes piled up during months of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Which we point out while acknowledging the economic pain the pandemic has caused many.

And so, Signifyd already has declared that the holiday shopping season is on. And it looks to continue to be a holiday shopping season like no other. 

“Black Friday and early December are going to be in the center of a perfect storm of high demand, low staffing, slow shipping and difficulties restocking,” RetailMeNot website editor Kristin McGrath was quoted as saying in USA TODAY.

Holiday shopping started in August

It all means consumers got an exceptionally early start to their holiday shopping. A RetailMeNot survey of shoppers found that 19% got started in August or earlier and that 83% planned to begin holiday shopping before Thanksgiving this year.  

Given the shopping enthusiasm, we decided to examine a relevant subset of Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data to determine what gift-type-items were selling the fastest in September and October. OK, we can’t guarantee that the consumers who are buying this stuff up are going to give it away, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

At the very least, our Top 25 list should give you some idea of what gifts you might be in store for while also offering pointers on what you might want to grab now, if you intend to present one of the hot items to a loved one this year. 

So, let’s have a look and see what we can conclude. Among other things, the list provides further proof that today’s consumers are into electronics — gaming in particular — and fashion.

2022 will be the year of playing video games

Twelve of the Top 25 sellers are electronics or electronics-related items, including video games at No. 2, cases and covers at No. 4, game consoles at No. 5, tablets and e-readers at No. 23 and controllers and attachments at No. 25.  And how about those CDs at No. 20? Yes, people around the world do still listen to (and collect) CDs. Ten of the Top 25 are apparel items or accessories, including athletic shoes at No. 3, T-shirts at No. 6, wristwatches at No. 8 and women’s bags at No. 15. You’re more the hoodie-and-jeans kind of clothes horse? We’ve got something for you at No. 22 and 24 respectively. 

It will be interesting to see how the selection of gifts changes — if it changes — once the traditional post-Thanksgiving holiday season is upon us. In fact, it will be interesting to see if the holiday buying engine can keep up its early pace or if consumers are indeed taking retailers’ advice to shop early. In that case, shopping could drop off in December rather than reach a crescendo. Or even if consumers choose to shop, rather than drop, sales could slow if out-of-stock items mean the right things are not around to buy. 

Bar chart showing relative sales of 2021 holiday gift items, based on Signifyd dataWhat we do know is that shoppers are buying now. 

Clothes and computers will be exchanged at plenty of celebrations

Computer and electronics sales online were up 105% in September and October, compared to the previous two-month period, according to Signifyd Ecommerce Pulse data. Apparel saw online sales increase by 52%. High-end fashion in particular, items or orders costing $500 or more, were up 46% in September and October and items or orders of between $250 and $500 posted a boost of 11%. 

In previous years, you might say these are early trends that could shift once Christmas music is playing on the radio and in shopping districts, Starbucks is serving lattes in holiday cups and many have finished raking up the fall leaves.

But this is 2021. The pandemic is still with us. Ecommerce has entered a new, more robust era. And predicting what’s to come is more difficult than ever.

Signifyd data analyst Phelim Killough contributed to this report.

Photo by Getty Images


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Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy

Mike is the head of storytelling at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at mike.cassidy@signifyd.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.