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There may be fewer 'last-minute shoppers' this holiday season, survey finds

  • "Getting a late start to the holiday shopping season" has become less frequent over the past decade, according to survey findings from NPD Group.
  • Online sales are looking to play a bigger role in the holidays this year, too, the firm has found.
  • In 2017, about 30 percent of U.S. consumers plan to start their holiday shopping over Thanksgiving weekend, NPD said.
A pedestrian passes by a Black Friday discount sign at a Joe Fresh retail store in New York.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
A pedestrian passes by a Black Friday discount sign at a Joe Fresh retail store in New York.

It's still October, but Christmas is quickly approaching, and so are retailers' all-important holiday sales.

This year, more Americans are expected to begin their holiday shopping in the middle of the season, or Thanksgiving weekend, as opposed to late in the season, or early December, a new survey from NPD Group has found.

This marks the first time the research firm has noticed such a drastic shift forward in shoppers' spending timelines during the November and December months. NPD surveyed nearly 3,800 U.S. consumers in September on their holiday purchase intentions.

"The consumer that used to wait until after Thanksgiving weekend now shops during it," said Marshal Cohen, an analyst with NPD Group.

According to the firm's findings, "getting a late start to the holiday shopping season" has become less frequent over the past decade.

"The last-minute shoppers have moved their timing up," Cohen added.

In 2017, about 30 percent of U.S. consumers plan to start their holiday shopping over Thanksgiving weekend, compared to only 12 to 16 percent in the years prior to 2014, NPD said.

Online sales are looking to play a bigger role in the holidays this year, too.

"The boost we will see during the peak Thanksgiving week shopping period of the 2017 holiday season will come from online sales," Cohen explained. NPD has further found that roughly two-thirds of shoppers across the U.S. plan to complete at least a portion of their holiday shopping through digital channels this year.

Across the board, industry groups are calling for a more upbeat 2017 holiday season.

AlixPartners is calling for holiday retail sales growth of 3.5 to 4.4 percent; Deloitte has forecast growth of 4 to 4.5 percent, and the National Retail Federation is predicting an increase of 3.6 to 4 percent.

WATCH: Get ready for heavy holiday promotions this season