Holiday Gift Guide: Reliable Best Sellers Year After Year

Instead of asking yourself, “What will the best-selling holiday gift be this year,” why not take a step back and ask, “what are the best-selling gifts every year.” Gift-giving behavior remains the same year after year, even if the specific products change. If you can tap into the kinds of gifts shoppers always buy, you don’t have to rely so much on the trends of that particular holiday season. 

In this guide, we look at data from the National Retail Federation about holiday and winter shopping habits. Certain product categories perform well every year, revealing practical insights about the way holiday shoppers think. Use the information below to make business decisions regarding your inventory and product selection.  

Popular Holiday Gifts by the Numbers

To understand the products people typically buy each holiday shopping season, we need to look at two particular data sets: what people want, and what people get. 

What People Want

For starters, let’s see what’s on everyone’s wish list. The trouble a lot of us experience when holiday shopping is that we’re not exactly sure what the people we’re shopping for want. This graph represents what people have said they want to receive as a gift. 

The big winners, by far, are gift cards and apparel. As you’ll soon see, most of the data leads back to these two product categories. Books and other media (movies, TV shows) are also consistently popular. Typically, new releases are the most in-demand, as are old releases recently available in a new format, like old movies just released on digital for the first time. Electronics, a common gift, follow in fourth. 

What People Get

Here we have the more telling data: what people are actually spending money on. 

Again, gift cards and apparel dominate, with more than half of the people surveyed saying they would both like to receive these and plan on purchasing them for someone else. Similar to the first survey, books and other media appeal to about a third of people, while electronics appeal to about a quarter.  

However, you’ll notice two significant holiday gift categories that were absent in the first data set: toys and food snacks. We can assume this data comes from adult correspondents, hence not many people mentioned “toys” when asked what they want. As for food snacks, those have always been a type of “cover-all” gift for when you don’t know what the person actually wants, not necessarily what the receiver wants, but something they’re happy to receive nonetheless. 

When People Buy

It’s also worth taking into account when people buy certain gifts. As we mention in our Ultimate Ecommerce Holiday Guide: Monthly Checklist, you want to schedule your deals when people are most interested in purchasing gifts, whether that’s early fall, Thanksgiving weekend, early December, or the last-minute rush. 

Here are the most popular product categories for Thanksgiving weekend:

… and here are what people have already bought by December:

The timing of a sale seems to mostly match the previous data. Clothing again dominates, with toys, gift cards, books/other media, and electronics in tow. 

There are two interesting insights worth mentioning, though. First, while gift cards are still popular, they’re not as popular as the totals would suggest. This means a substantial amount of gift cards are purchased late, right before or even right after Christmas. The same can be said of food snacks. 

We can glean that these two categories, gift cards and food snacks, are after-thought gift purchases. Shoppers focus on specific gifts during the beginning of the holiday shopping season and then buy last resort gifts during the closing of the holiday season. Keep this timing in mind when scheduling your holiday promotions!

Best-Selling Holiday Gifts Every Year

So, to answer the question of what product categories sell consistently well every year, we can see six clear winners (in no particular order):

  • Apparel
  • Gift cards
  • Books and other media
  • Toys
  • Food snacks
  • Electronics

While it’s difficult to predict the hottest gifts of the year, it’s a little easier to predict the hottest gifts within a particular category. For one thing, you can look back on what has been selling well all year long — these tend to perform well during the holiday season, too. 

However, don’t rule out newcomers. Manufacturers often wait until the holiday season to roll out new products, anticipating the hype and shopping frenzy. It’s important to keep tabs on sales and check retail blogs frequently to track trends within each product category. 

And, above all, remember whom you’re selling to. In the graphics above, you may have noticed smaller tidbits about the types of people buying these products — it’s worth taking a look so you know which products fit your customer base best. 

First, women on average prefer to receive gift cards over men, so they work best with stores selling products for women. Second, 18-24-year-olds frequent personal care (beauty products) and jewelry more than older demographics do. If your customer base is mostly comprised of young adults, you might consider adding these gifts to your product range. It’s also worth mentioning that this age group buys even more clothing than the greater average. 

Be Prepared

Knowing what to sell is only half the battle. You also have to keep these items in stock throughout the season, offer the right promotions, and make sure your target customers stay informed. Inventory management software like ecomdash can help with all of these: set up automatic stock alerts, check sales data in real-time, and monitor your marketing campaigns to see which work best. Start your 15-day trial now, no credit card needed

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