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Giving gifts is one of the most popular ways Americans intend to celebrate Christmas, but that doesn’t mean all presents are appreciated. Amid rising living costs, giving the wrong gifts is more expensive and frustrating than ever. Read on to see what NOT to buy for your family and friends this holiday season.

Quick overview

  • America’s most unwanted gifts include plants, beauty products, and drinks.
  • 56.60% of Americans will regift or donate unwanted gifts, while 42.34% choose to return or exchange them for something they like.
  • Women’s least favorite gifts are liquor or drinks, while men’s least favorite gifts are beauty products.
  • The worst person to give these unwanted gifts would be the significant other/partner.

Unwanted gifts: Avoid buying plants and beauty products

Flowers and plants top the list when it comes to America’s most unwanted gifts (42.42%), followed by beauty products (40.29%). Americans also don’t want liquor or drinks as gifts (34.31%).

Types of gift

Number of responses

Percentage

Flowers and plants

476

42.42%

Beauty products

452

40.29%

Liquor or drinks

385

34.31%

Pets and pet products

337

30.04%

Books or ebooks

320

28.52%

Health and fitness items

303

27.01%

Clothing and accessories

224

19.96%

Household items

203

18.09%

Electronics and tech gears

95

8.47%

Americans aren’t the only ones who might dislike beauty products. A 2017 survey by Finder revealed the U.K.’s least favorite gifts are clothing, cosmetics, and household items.

Unsure what your friends and family members want? Electronics and tech gears are your safest bet, with only 8.47% of participants citing them as their least favorite.

Common reasons behind the unwanted gifts

More than half (52.41%) of the survey participants won’t like a certain gift if it’s not useful to them, and 50.27% don’t want gifts that don’t fit their taste.

Reason

Number of responses

Percentage

They are useless for me.

588

52.41%

They don't fit my taste/interest.

564

50.27%

They are inconvenient for me.

254

22.64%

They are too mainstream.

110

9.80%

They are the same things as I received last year.

104

9.27%

They remind me of a bad memory or experience.

54

4.81%

When we combine this with the top 3 unwanted gifts, it’s clear Americans have specific personalized needs for these products.

Americans on average already spend $78 on Christmas trees and $100 on decorations, so it’s not a good idea to gift plants that clash with your friend’s home design or clutter up their houses.

With beauty products, shoppers will stick with products that work for them. Cosmetics items have expiry dates, so they will only buy things that they’re running out of.

Liquor and drinks also depend on personal taste, and non-essential, non-food expenses are taking a backseat this year. 42% of Americans already intend to cut down spending on alcohol this Christmas.

With inflation affecting the Christmas plan of nearly 9 out of 10 Americans, the demands for practical and personalized gifts are on the rise.

What do Americans do with their unwanted gifts?

More than half (56.60%) of the Americans who received an unwanted gift choose to regift or donate them. The second most popular choice is to return or exchange the gift for something else they like (42.34%).

Action

Number of responses

Percentage

Regift or donate them

635

56.60%

Return or exchange them for something I like

475

42.34%

Keep them

334

29.77%

Resell them

152

13.55%

Throw them away

108

9.63%

29.77% of participants opt to politely keep the gifts, while 13.55% have plans to resell them. Only 9.63% say they will throw the gifts away.

Unwanted gifts: Partner is the worst giver

43.14% of the survey participants are most disappointed when the one giving the unwanted gift is their partner.

Giver

Number of responses

Percentage

Partner

484

43.14%

Parents

187

16.67%

Best friends

165

14.71%

Boss or colleagues

129

11.50%

Siblings

95

8.47%

Children

62

5.53%

Parents and best friends are the second and third worst givers, cited by 16.67% and 14.71% of participants respectively. Only 11.50% consider their boss or colleagues the worst giver of unwanted gifts, and less than 10% will be most disappointed by unwanted gifts from siblings or their children.

Do Americans actually address the “unwanted” part?

When asked if they would tell the person giving unwanted gifts to stop next year, only 27.72% of the participants are blunt enough to say yes. 42.25% say they may comment on the unwanted gifts, and 30.04% will say nothing. It’s the thoughts that count.

Answer

Number of responses

Percentage

Maybe

474

42.25%

No

337

30.04%

Yes

311

27.72%

Unwanted gifts by gender

Most unwanted gifts

There’s quite a difference between men’s and women’s least favorite gifts. More than half the men listed beauty products as their most unwanted gifts (51.80%), followed by flowers and plants (48.77%), and books and ebooks (31.38%). Women’s most unwanted gifts are liquor or drinks (40.64%), flowers and plants (36.76%), and health and fitness products (31.70%).

Types of gift

Men

Women

Flowers and plants

48.77%

36.76%

Beauty products

51.80%

30.02%

Liquor or drinks

27.22%

40.64%

Pets and pet products

29.49%

30.52%

Books or ebooks

31.38%

25.97%

Health and fitness items

21.74%

31.70%

Clothing and accessories

21.93%

18.21%

Household items

18.34%

17.88%

Electronics and tech gears

8.13%

8.77%

Reasons

When it comes to why these gifts are unwanted, women’s most common reason is that these items don’t fit their taste or interest (51.26%), while 57.66% of men say unwanted gifts are useless to them.

Reason

Men

Women

They are useless for me.

57.66%

47.72%

They don't fit my taste/interest.

49.15%

51.26%

They are inconvenient for me.

25.90%

19.73%

They are too mainstream.

10.59%

9.11%

They are the same things as I received last year.

9.07%

9.44%

They remind me of a bad memory or experience.

4.73%

4.89%

What men and women do with unwanted gifts

3 out of 5 women would regift or donate the unwanted item compared to 52.17% of men. On the other hand, men are 2 times more likely than women to throw away unwanted gifts, with the number being 13.04% and 6.58% respectively.

Action

Men

Women

Regift or donate them

52.17%

60.54%

Return or exchange them for something I like

44.61%

40.30%

Keep them

30.06%

29.51%

Resell them

15.31%

11.97%

Throw them away

13.04%

6.58%

Most disappointing givers

Both genders consider their partners the worst giver of unwanted gifts, although a lot more women (46.37%) would be disappointed than men (39.51%). On the other hand, men are pickier about gifts from their workmates, with 13.99% citing their boss or colleagues as the worst givers compared to 9.27% of women.

Giver

Men

Women

Partner

39.51%

46.37%

Parents

18.15%

15.35%

Best friends

14.56%

14.84%

Boss or colleagues

13.99%

9.27%

Siblings

8.51%

8.43%

Children

5.29%

5.73%

Unwanted gifts by age

Least favorite gifts by generation

Gen Z’s least favorite gifts this Christmas include flowers and plants (40.08%), beauty products (33.07%), and books (33.46%). Gen X and Millennials share the same top 3 unwanted gifts: Flowers, beauty products, and drinks. The worst gifts for Boomers are beauty products (42.57%), liquor (40.59%), and health and fitness items (39.60%).

Types of gift

Gen Z

Millennials

Gen X

Boomers

Flowers and plants

40.08%

44.56%

43.41%

36.63%

Beauty products

33.07%

42.97%

41.86%

42.57%

Liquor or drinks

32.30%

34.22%

34.11%

40.59%

Pets and pet products

29.57%

29.44%

29.72%

34.65%

Books or ebooks

33.46%

27.06%

27.91%

23.76%

Health and fitness items

21.40%

28.12%

26.36%

39.60%

Clothing and accessories

18.29%

20.16%

21.96%

15.84%

Household items

15.95%

18.57%

18.60%

19.80%

Electronics and tech gears

7.00%

7.69%

8.27%

15.84%

Reasons

Practicality is a key point of consideration for Gen Z and Millennials, with 55% stating that they don’t want useless items as gifts. On the other hand, 50% of Gen X participants say they don’t want gifts that don’t fit their taste.

Reason

Gen Z

Millennials

Gen X

Boomers

They are useless for me.

54.86%

55.70%

48.58%

48.51%

They don't fit my taste.

51.75%

49.60%

50.39%

48.51%

They are inconvenient for me.

29.96%

21.75%

19.90%

17.82%

They are too mainstream.

11.67%

8.49%

10.85%

5.94%

They are the same things as I received last year.

10.89%

9.81%

7.75%

8.91%

They remind me of a bad memory or experience.

6.61%

4.51%

4.39%

2.97%

What each generation does with unwanted gifts

Out of the 4 generations, Gen Z is the most likely to keep unwanted gifts (35.02%) while Boomers are the least likely (20.79%). Millennials are the most likely to throw away unwanted gifts (12.47%), and Gen X is the most likely to regift and donate them (57.88%).

Action

Gen Z

Millennials

Gen X

Boomers

Keep them

35.02%

31.30%

27.13%

20.79%

Regift or donate them

55.64%

57.29%

57.88%

51.49%

Return or exchange them for something I like

43.19%

41.38%

42.12%

44.55%

Throw them away

11.67%

12.47%

5.68%

8.91%

Resell them

17.12%

16.98%

9.04%

8.91%

Most disappointing giver

The partner is the most disappointing person to give people unwanted gifts across all generations, while each generation’s second most popular choice is usually their family. Parents are the most disappointing givers for nearly one-fourth of the Gen Z participants (24.51%) and one-fifth of Millennials (19.10%). For Gen X, 13.70% will be most disappointed by unwanted gifts from their boss or colleagues; and for Boomers, it would be their children (14.85%).

Giver

Gen Z

Millennials

Gen X

Boomers

Best friends

21.01%

13.26%

12.40%

12.87%

Boss or colleagues

8.17%

11.94%

13.70%

9.90%

Children

1.95%

2.12%

8.79%

14.85%

Parents

24.51%

19.10%

11.89%

5.94%

Partners

33.07%

46.95%

45.99%

43.56%

Siblings

11.28%

6.63%

7.24%

12.87%

Holiday gifts and spending statistics

holiday gifts and spending statistics
  • Deloitte projects holiday sales will total $1.45 to $1.47 trillion during the November to January timeframe.
  • According to ShipStation’s Holiday Shopping Trends Report, 3 in 5 consumers expect to cut back on non-food expenses; and holiday gift spending in the U.S. is expected to decline by $30.6 billion this year compared to the year before.
  • PWC’s Holiday Outlook 2022 highlights that consumers will spend $1,430 on average, with $754 on gifts, $452 on travel, and $224 on entertainment. With 53% of Christmas spending going towards presents, avoiding the unwanted gifts will reduce billions of wasted dollars.
  • GiftNow estimates the personal gifting market will reach a total of $462.8 billion in 2022. On average, shoppers plan to purchase 8 gifts and spend $580 this holiday season. That’s $65 per gift.

What retailers should do to prepare for uncertainty

  • Define your supply chain strategy early to ensure you have enough inventory to sell, and how to handle stockouts and shipping delay
  • Communicate your promotion and policy to customers early. Consumers are beginning their holiday shopping earlier, so you should reach out to them as soon as possible.
  • Optimize your website and in-store processes to make it easy for shoppers to find products, check out, get support, and return
  • Anticipate and plan responses to common holiday issues, such as substitutions for out-of-stock products or preprinted RMA forms
  • Share helpful information to assist customers in their shopping experience, such as Christmas’ most wanted and unwanted gifts!

Methodology and limitations

To collect the data shown above, we surveyed 1,122 respondents located in the U.S. for their perspectives and decisions. Because the survey relies on self-reported information, issues such as selective memory and exaggeration can influence responses. Please also note that this survey’s results do not reflect our opinions.

Fair Use

If you know someone who could benefit from our findings, feel free to share this project with them. The graphics and content are available for noncommercial reuse. All we ask is that you link back to this page so that readers get all the necessary information and our contributors receive proper credit.

Jackie Tran

Author Jackie Tran

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