Almost six in 10 (59%) consumers in Australia and New Zealand plan to start their festive season shopping before December and almost 20% started as early as September, according to the new Holiday Shopping Season report from leading global retail bank, payments and shopping service, Klarna.

The report also found that 29% of shoppers are starting earlier than last year with 43% planning to head in-store for most of their shopping.

Nearly two-thirds (61%) of shoppers cite a desire to take advantage of holiday sales as the main reason for getting a head start on their gift purchasing this year. However, amid supply chain issues across the country, almost half (48%) are starting earlier to avoid shipping delays, while others want to ensure product availability (38%).

The report found that Black Friday will remain an important date this season, with 44% of shoppers planning to purchase during these sales, particularly Gen Z (71%) and Millennial (67%) shoppers. Despite the growth in online shopping over the last two years, almost half of shoppers (43%) plan to shop primarily in-store this season, while one-fifth (23%) will shop as much in-store as online.

“Regardless of how they shop, 80% of shoppers expect a seamless, connected online and offline experience, highlighting the importance for retailers to embrace an omni-channel approach. Click and collect and curbside pick-up options surged during lockdowns, but are expected to remain popular with shoppers this festive season and beyond,” Klarna head of partner success for Australia and New Zealand, Mathew Hosking said.

“As a significant percentage of consumers plan to begin their holiday shopping early this year, brands should take note that this group plans to spend 11% more, on average, than those who start shopping later.

“It’s also worth noting that shoppers are more likely to opt for interest-free options at checkout, with 54% planning to use debit over credit (48%), and almost half (47%) looking for flexible payment options like Klarna’s Pay in 4 solution, which help people spread out the cost of the holiday season and give them more control over their budget during this busy period.”

More than half of shoppers (57%) would rather receive a gift card than a physical gift, but that most (61%) would prefer to give a physical gift, according to the report.

“Contrary to the common perception of gift cards as being impersonal, it seems many consumers would be thrilled to receive one. Retailers should consider exploring new ways to package and share gift cards so that giving them and opening them feels like more of an experience,” Hosking said.