Last Minute (Male) Holiday Shopping Trends

Ask any retailer about the Holiday season, and they will tell you their success comes down to just 2 weekends. The first is Black Friday through Cyber Monday. The second is the final weekend before Christmas. This year is especially positive for brick and mortar retailers on the latter count, since the holiday falls on a Monday and next day delivery at most retailers ends December 21/22.

Dig a little deeper, and you might hear another interesting factoid: women prefer to shop early in the season, while men tend to wait until the last minute. Both strategies make sense. Retailers get a jump on the season with Black Friday weekend sales to capture as much as possible of consumers’ holiday spend. Then, just before Christmas, they do their final markdowns to clear inventory.

That insight leads us to wonder: what is the economic state of the US male population going into the final shopping weekend of the 2017 Holiday Season?

The answer: very strong. We pulled the unemployment data from the St. Louis Fed database for American men aged 25 to 54, and here’s what we found:

  • Working age male unemployment sits at post-Great Recession lows – 3.2% as of November 2017. At its peak, in October 2009, it was 10.0%
  • At current levels, male unemployment is below the best levels of the last recovery (October 2006, at 3.3%).
  • You have to go all the way back to 1999 to find lower levels of holiday period unemployment in the American working age population, at 2.8%.
  • Econ data nerds know that male workforce participation rates have been declining for decades. The numbers over the last 2 years have finally stabilized, however, at 71-72%.

The upshot is Holiday 2017 should end on a very high note indeed. Procrastinating male shoppers (a stereotype, but that doesn’t make it wrong…) should be in good financial shape and ready to spend. And since online shopping will not be an option, traditional retailers may well capture an unusual share of this last minute holiday spending.