DENVER -- Have you finished your holiday shopping yet? Did those words just send panic down your spine?
We get it. Thanksgiving came very late this year, and it's left us with a lot less time to get in the holiday spirit. In fact, six fewer shopping days this holiday season vs. last.
"I think consumers are confused about when is the best time to buy," said Melissa Akaka, associate professor of marketing at the University of Denver Daniels College of Business. "How do I get the best deals?"
Akaka says retailers seem to be a little thrown off by the shortened season, too.
"I saw an ad yesterday about bringing back black Friday," she said. "All of these sales are blending together. Black Friday turns into Cyber Monday turns into black November turns into cyber everything."
Akaka says what is trending this year is experiential consumption.
"Concerts, restaurants, movies, sporting events," Akaka said. "Especially millennial parents are thinking about how they want to spend time with their kids and making sure their kids have more than just things under the tree."
Because of fewer days to get it all in - stores like Marshalls are teaming up with social media superstars like Will Taylor.
"This year we're seeing a big trend of people wanting to give the gift of time," Taylor said.
Taylor has more than 300,000 followers on Instagram under his handle @brightbazaar.
"I've been blogging for 11 years now," Taylor said.
His must-buys this year include self-care products, experiences, and games.
"Family comes together around the holidays playing board games," Taylor said. "Clue is a favorite."
And while the season is abbreviated, experts say the forecast is strong.
The National Retail Federation still expects Christmas spending to increase by 4.2% over last year.
"It's not inconsequential," said Dr. Alex Padilla, associate professor of economics at Metropolitan State University of Denver. "If you multiply that by the dollar sale - it can be a lot. A 1% increase in economic growth leads to a huge increase in living standards."
Akaka, for one, isn't just studying the trends, she's living them by giving her three kids an experience this year.
"We wanted to take them somewhere," Akaka said. "So, we're going to surprise them and take them somewhere special this Christmas. I think from a consumer perspective - we're trending toward experiences, generally."