Calling All Procrastinators: Buy These Holiday Gifts Early Before They Sell Out

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As crazy as it sounds, we're readying for the holiday season, and unlike last year's celebrations (or lack thereof), we're expecting a major turnout for 2021. With so many people once again traveling to see friends and family for the holidays, one major plot point naturally comes to mind: gifts. But according to experts across the retail landscape, securing the perfect presents for your loved ones might not be as simple as it was pre-pandemic. Sure, there's a lot to be optimistic about right now, but manufacturers are still struggling to get back to the way things were, so if you want your gifts to arrive in time for the holidays, there are a few extra factors to consider. 

First things first: The entire gift-buying process has shifted ahead, with many people opting to start their shopping now instead of waiting until Black Friday or Cyber Monday. "Traditional doorbuster holidays like Black Friday no longer mark the beginning of the holidays," says Megan Gokey, the head of U.S. marketing at all-in-one shopping app Klarna. In fact, according to Klarna's 2021 Holidays Unwrapped report, 22% of shoppers have already begun checking off gifts on their loved one's wish lists, and many more will be following suit as we get closer and closer to the season of giving. 

According to Alison Stiefel, general manager at fashion search engine ShopStyle, this shift is a direct result of many retailers struggling to get inventory, which is why we've seen so many have limited stock. "Demand is there, but supply is not," Stiefel says. And that was before the holidays. By the time the year's busiest shopping season truly begins, scarcely anything will be left, especially when it comes to items that are especially popular. To offset this, "retailers are marketing their key items and bets for the holiday season earlier, [resulting in] people thinking, 'If I want to get that one specific bag that I'm interested in purchasing and there's only two left, I need to do it now,'" says Stiefel. 

Since we know how busy the holiday season can be, we're encouraging you not to procrastinate. Instead, get your gift shopping done with time to spare. Ahead, you'll find 2021's most sought-after gifts, otherwise known as the ones you'll need to buy early (like now!). 

Hard-to-Buy Gifts

Due to an influx of inventory issues, gifts are going to be more difficult to get ahold of during the holidays, especially if you don't get to work early. The task becomes even trickier when those gifts are already hard to come by. Think rare sneakers and bags as well as frequently sold-out styles. 

Of course, according to Klarna's 2021 report, the latter are the exact types of items that many people are asking for—Gen Z specifically. On Gen Z's list of most-wished-for gifts is Telfar's Medium Cerulean Shopping Bag, Skims's Sculpting Waist Trainer, and Nike's Air Jordan 1 Mid Barely Orange and Dunk Low Retro sneakers. In other words, start scouring the internet now. 

Splurge Gifts

"Millennials (60%) and Gen Zers (47%) are more likely than older shoppers to wait for the holiday season to splurge on luxury purchases for reasons including better sales and deals and having extra money to spend with work holiday bonuses, so we expect to see an increase in purchases within the luxury category among those audiences," says Gokey. In fact, according to Klarna's 2021 report, shoppers are planning to spend the most this season on fashion and apparel.

Some of those big-ticket items include the Saint Laurent Lou Mini and Gucci Ophidia shoulder bags as well as Chanel's Chance Eau Tendre fragrance. 

Comfort Gifts—With a Twist

"Last year, we saw a lot of athleisure and comfortwear [during the holiday season], while this year, we're seeing that people are still looking for comfort, but it's comfort with a twist," says Stiefel. According to her, consumers are craving that same cozy feeling they've always loved around the holiday season, but pieces have to look the part, too.

"Sweaters are a big trending category right now, but mostly sweaters that have embellishment, fringe, or puffy sleeves," she says. "Chunky and platform sneakers are big trends that we're seeing search for [ahead of the holidays] as well as puffy, quilted bags with a chain." Essentially, it's leisurewear 2.0, and it's on everyone's shopping lists this gift-giving (and getting!) season.

Gifts for Entertaining

"While last year focused on cozy gifts for staying safe at home, this year, we're seeing people gift in an entirely different way, purchasing [presents] for entertaining, attending gatherings, and being back in person with loved ones they haven't seen for a while," says Stephanie Roberson, chief merchandising officer at Shopbop. "Candles, homeware, and a great apron will be big hitters for the holidays."

Instagram-Approved Gifts

If you're not shopping for a younger friend or family member, keep scrolling. According to Klarna's 2021 report, 65% of the Gen Zers surveyed used Instagram as their main source of gift discovery. Because of that, we expect to see a spike in searches for Instagram trends and brands—like tinted sunglasses and Gauge81 pieces—as many set out to purchase gifts for their favorite Gen Zers.

Cause-Driven Gifts

"This year, we have been seeing [especially high] support of diverse and inclusive designs," says Stiefel. According to her, it's not necessarily all about a specific item or gift. Many want to use the holiday season to support Black, Latin, and AAPI designers as well. 

Editor

Eliza Huber is a New York City–based fashion editor who specializes in trend reporting, brand discovery, and celebrity style. She joined Who What Wear in 2021 after almost four years on the fashion editorial team at Refinery29, the job she took after graduating with a marketing degree from the University of Iowa. She has since launched two monthly columns, Let's Get a Room and Ways to Wear; profiled the likes of Dakota Fanning, Diane Kruger, Katie Holmes, and Sabrina Carpenter for WWW's monthly cover features; and reported on everything from the relationship between Formula One and fashion to the top trends from fashion month, season after season. Eliza now lives on the Upper West Side and spends her free time researching F1 fashion imagery for her side Instagram accounts @thepinnacleoffashion and @f1paddockfits, running in Central Park, and scouring eBay for '90s Prada and '80s Yves Saint Laurent.