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Shopper Trends|December 11, 2019

Holiday Shopper Talk: Stockings to be Half Full

As if the nation needed one more opinion on which to be divided: Half of shoppers are now giving the thumbs down to buying more gifts this holiday season. What is especially scary is those most likely to cut back are the youngest shoppers. Here’s what our 2019 Holiday How America Shops® research reveals.

Will Shoppers Buy More Gifts This Year? Chances are 50-50

Depending on whether they’re optimistic, retailers’ sales stockings may only get half-filled this year.

That’s how many shoppers, 49%, told us they plan to cut back on the number of holiday gifts they give, according to results from our new How America Shops® 2019 Holiday Survey, among 1,500 shoppers 16 and over.

That still means 51% plan to buy more gifts, which is encouraging. However, a deeper dig into the numbers reveals the current trend forebodes an ominous holiday future. This is evident not only in the demographics of the shoppers reducing gift numbers, but in the reasons why.

Younger Shoppers, Women Plan to Buy Fewer Gifts

The 2019 Holiday Survey indicates sentiments about gift buying are shifting among different age groups and genders:

  • 60% of Millennials and Gen Zers said they will cut back on gifts (a 10 ppt increase over the overall market).
  • 54% of women plan to cut back, compared with 44% of men.
  • Household income isn’t a factor. Roughly 45% of shoppers, from $50,000 to $150,000, will buy less.

Money Concerns, Stress, Diluting Holiday Cheer

Among the leading culprits for gift reductions: finances and the pressure to meet all demands of family and friends.

  • 30% of all shoppers said they will cut back gifts because they don’t want to incur post-holiday debt.
  • 40% said their finances have changed this year and they can no longer spend on gifts like they used to.
  • 27% of Millennial and Gen Zers told us they are cutting back on the number of gifts they buy because all that shopping makes the holidays too stressful.
  • A quarter of shoppers said they will buy fewer gifts because no one needs more “stuff.” In fact, a similar percentage told us they have found other ways to share their holiday love.

We see this attention to financial responsibility and stress management as a core component – even necessity – of the public’s efforts to take control of their own wellness. For many, buying fewer gifts not only means less debt; it means a happier season.

Retailers: Know Who You’re ‘Gifting’ For

Retailers that are weighting their marketing and promotional holiday budgets on Millennials and younger shoppers should factor in this group’s resistance. Festive events and enticements (especially by invitation to loyalty club members) could woo younger shoppers into stores for the experience, and inspire purchases.

Retailers also should design their displays and promotions to appeal to older shoppers who still want to buy lots of presents – 56% of Boomers and 64% of seniors plan to do so. Images that show gift items in use are a great aspirational tool that can bridge the gap between consideration and purchase.

The shift to buying fewer gifts may be an indicator of how shoppers will spend in 2020. If retailers recognize and address the causes behind the potential shift, such as stress and financial responsibility, they are more likely find themselves in a more optimistic position with shoppers in 2020. 

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