What Do People Want This Holiday Season? Gifts, Of Course, But No Wrapping Needed

The start of October may signal autumn, but it’s also the time when predictions are made about consumers for the critical holiday season. One trend to watch: more environmentally conscious gifting.

To reduce the use of paper, half of consumers said they will happily give gifts without wrapping this holiday season while nearly two-thirds said they would happily receive them without wrapping, according to an Accenture survey of 1,500 U.S. consumers released this week.

While Amazon and other retailers are doubling down on faster-than-ever delivery to please convenience-seeking shoppers, half of the consumers said they would opt for slower shipping, in-store pickups and other alternatives to lessen what they perceive as the negative environmental impact of fast shipping, which includes shipping multiple items separately rather than together to expedite delivery, according to the study.

Nearly two-fifths of consumers said they would like retailers to show them the carbon footprint of the different delivery options they offer, the survey found.

With fashion waste another key environmental concern, about half of the respondents said they would consider giving second-hand clothing as gifts while 56% said they would welcome such gifts for themselves.

“Consumers start to care more about sustainability,” Jill Standish, senior managing director and head of Accenture’s global retail practice, said in an interview. The firm’s past surveys showed consumers usually would have opted for “convenience” choices that deliver goods to them free and fast, she said. 

Being more mindful of the environmental issues is one thing, but American consumers are still set to flex their spending muscle this holiday season. Holiday sales in November and December are expected to rise between 3.8% and 4.2% this year to as much as $730.7 billion, even amid the shadow of the U.S.-China tariffs war, according to a forecast from trade group National Retail Federation on Thursday. That projection tops an average 3.7% holiday increase over the past five years, NRF said.

“The uncertainty has been the overarching theme of the economy” this year, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said on a media call Thursday. “We see momentum amid the uncertainty. The fundamentals of the underlying economy are strong.” 

While tariffs haven’t translated to consumer price hikes, Shay said eight in ten consumers in the NRF survey said they were concerned that tariffs will cause prices to rise.  

Some holiday merchandise—including shoes, clothing and TVs—is subject to new tariffs that took effect September 1, and other items will be levied December 15, NRF said. Retailers have taken a hit on margins, passed tariffs cost increase on to suppliers or manufacturers, and are trying to diversify sourcing beyond China to avoid raising prices consumers pay, Shay said.

Target, for instance, reportedly told suppliers recently to eat any tariffs cost increase. 

Increased online shopping will send also e-commerce and other non-store sales higher by as much as 14% to $166.9 billion, or more than one-fifth of the holiday spending total, according to NRF. In other times of the year, online typically represents about 10% of retail total, Shay said. 

With the growing Gen Z-led use of Instagram and other social media shopping, the share of online orders referred from a social media platform is expected to top 10% globally this holiday season—a first—according to a Salesforce forecast also released this week. Its data shows about one in ten online purchases, driven by Gen Z, are already made through social media, messaging platforms, Amazon’s Alexa and other voice-enabled devices, live-streaming videos and other “emerging” ways.

Interestingly, that also includes shopping on gaming platforms, as one in four millennials and Gen Z consumers express an interest in shopping on game consoles, according to the Salesforce study. 

Related on Forbes: More signs the athleisure trend isn’t slowing any time soon.

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Related on Forbes: Major fashion companies sign pact vowing to reduce industry’s environmental impact

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I have covered the retail industry for well over a decade and written for publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News. I have

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