Christmas countdown: Here's what shoppers want

What holiday shoppers want this year

It's officially less than a week until Christmas, and consumers are slightly farther along in checking off their lists than last year.

According to the National Retail Federation, as of Dec. 10, the average holiday shopper had completed 52.9 percent of their spending, up from 49.9 percent from the same period in 2013.

One explanation for consumers getting ahead this year is an increased number of—and earlier—promotions. Deutsche Bank on Wednesday released a report showing there is modestly increased markdown activity this year, citing Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl's and Macy's as retailers who are giving buyers more incentive to purchase items.

That's rising off of 2013, which many analysts considered to be the most promotional holiday on record.

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Some shoppers told CNBC that they're seeing better and more sales at stores like Banana Republic and Gap, prompting them to spend there instead of the discount stores they've traditionally visited, so they can get more bang for their buck.

Holiday shoppers are spending more on experiences, like painting classes, this season.
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Citing more lucrative sales, one couple from upstate New York noted they're taking full advantage of the deals.

"In the past we shopped at Wal-Mart, Target, Macy's... but this year we're shopping at Justice, Abercrombie, Toys R Us, things like that, " said Christine Cameron, who was shopping in New York City with her husband and two kids.

Giving an experience

Another trend this year, especially with millennials, is centered around giving an experience rather than a physical gift. Shoppers mentioned things such as a sushi-making class, tickets to a show and tours of a chocolate factory.

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According to PwC, which surveyed more than 2,200 shoppers, 15 percent to 20 percent of millennials are thinking about giving experiences instead of presents, compared to just 10 percent to 12 percent of baby boomers.

"It gives them something to do, it's really fun, and it seems different," Alex Paige, 23, told CNBC. "Hopefully you get to go with them, so then it's double the good time."

One for you, one for me

Another trend is self-gifting, or buying a present for yourself, which is also big with millennials.

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According to Deloitte's holiday shopping survey, which polled more than 5,000 consumers, 43 percent of respondents said they also buy gifts for themselves when shopping for others—up from 40 percent last year.

Visiting New York City from Washington state, Joanne Rockwell said, "We are definitely going to the mall this year, but unfortunately we usually end up buying more for ourselves than we do for other people."

Although much of the shopping has been done, one of the biggest weekends of the holiday season still remains. Analytics firm ShopperTrak is banking on procrastinators to make this Saturday—known as Super Saturday—the biggest day for both sales and traffic.