There’s something hopeful about the holiday season that is inspiring and full of warmth. We feel excited about buying gifts we know – well, cross our fingers – will make our loved ones happy. We look forward to getting together with family we normally see a few times a year. I’m sure many of us —myself included— are wishing that this year will be just as special as any other year. But things will probably be special this year for a different reason thanks to Covid-19.
Not only might our celebrations and get-togethers for the 2020 holidays get the Zoom treatment, our shopping plans might differ too. As the country is hitting new record highs in Covid-19 cases, retailers watch with anxiety how the 3rd wave impacts shoppers and their plans for the most important stretch of the retail calendar. Our study of over 350 U.S. respondents shows that this concern may be warranted: about two-thirds of our respondents said they plan on buying less this holiday season.
How will celebrations be different in 2020?
Some of my favorite things about the holidays have always included the delicious food, hanging out with the people I love, and the time off from work and school. These sentiments rang true for many of our respondents, unsurprisingly. But given our situation, things as simple as good food and presents may not be what we long for the most. “A cure for Covid 19” (75% support strength) is a desire many want to see come true, even if it is wishful thinking at the moment. Some plans are still up in the air due to restrictions and safety measures. But “the possibility of getting to see my family” (79% support strength) is the kind of hope that resonated with a lot of our survey takers.
Question: What are you most looking forward to this holiday season?
Personally, I am not even sure if I will be able to fly home for Thanksgiving if cases continue to rise. But I still hold on to that possibility of seeing my family and my bulldogs. Not surprisingly, many of us are least looking forward to “the changes that have to take place because of Covid” (67% support strength) and “not having our traditional get togethers” (65% support strength) this season. Because even if many of us do in fact get to celebrate with our close ones, things will not be the same. Our ‘new normal’ is about to become the ‘new holiday normal.’
Question: What are you least looking forward to this holiday season?
Speaking of not having traditional get-togethers, we were curious about how many people will partake in season’s celebrations. 58% reported that they are comfortable with 10 or less guests outside of their household. And 21% are not comfortable with anyone outside of their household.
Question: Given the current situation with COVID-19, what is the number of people outside of your household you would be comfortable celebrating this year’s holidays?
In addition, some precautions folks will take include asking everyone to wear a mask (36%), social distancing of at least 6 feet (38%), and not sharing any food or drinks (34%). Clearly, many of us are planning on making an effort to help limit the spread. But the fact that 21% still said that no Covid precautions will be taken is alarming.
Question: What COVID precautions will be taken at your holiday celebrations? Select all that apply.
Holiday shopping on a budget.
Similar to how we expect our celebrations to differ, our shopping habits might shift a bit too. Many of these changes include “shop[ping] more online” (91% support strength) and “being careful while shopping” (77% support strength). But most noteworthy is the theme that has been popping up frequently of being more frugal this year.
Question: How do you anticipate your holiday spending to differ compared to previous holiday seasons?
This is not shocking since, as we all are acutely aware, our economy is struggling, and many have lost their jobs. This finding about holiday shopping is in line with our Covid-19 pulse checks, which have consistently shown the trend in consumers believing that their disposable income will decrease in the future due to the pandemic. So, unfortunately, the notion that consumers will not be spending as much this season is a reality that retailers (and those receiving gifts) may need to face.
Question: In what ways do you believe Covid-19 will affect your personal holiday shopping this year?
In a similar vein, we figured that there will probably be products and services that consumers are interested in and have considered buying but have decided they won’t be purchasing for reasons such as personal finances or convenience. In general, these included “visiting museum[s]” (71% support strength), “electronics” (57% support strength), and “unnecessary stuff” (57% support strength).
More specifically, we looked at various consumer segments’ responses using our IntelliSegment™ tool. Interestingly enough we found that females were the ones who were mentioning tech (62% female support strength) and electronics (73% female support strength) more so than males. On the other hand, males mentioned food-related items such as “catering” (67% male support strength) and “candy” (68% male support strength) more often. And finally, those who are under 35 years old are not planning to purchase new “clothes” (71% support strength) compared to other groups. All of these groups seemed to be in agreement about not purchasing expensive products (63% total support strength), which once again supports our previous discoveries of consumers being on a budget.
Question: What products or services will you not be purchasing this holiday season?
Our actions—or lack thereof—will have implications on our health and economy.
Getting a sense of consumers’ state of mind and its impact on their shopping behavior is crucial for retailers, especially since many depend on the seasonal sales. We are already noticing which industries and brands are making it out of this pandemic stronger, as well as those that are truly struggling. These holidays are likely to accelerate this divide and push more brands we love to the brink.
Analyzing how people are planning to spend the holidays is fascinating, but also a bit heartbreaking. It is understandable that we need to amend our plans for the safety of ourselves and others, and this need continues to be underscored by the growing numbers of new infections. I’ve always had a long list of what I want for the holidays (believe me, I love gifts!), but what I—and our respondents out there—really want for Christmas this year is a cure for Covid.
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