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Concerned Consumers and a Very COVID Christmas

Retail industry experts have been predicting an atypical 2020 Holiday shopping season since the early stages of the pandemic. We expect a heavy focus on the E-commerce channel (through home delivery and click-and-collect) as well as on increased money-saving measures as many shoppers are faced with financial concerns. In accordance with previous years, we are also seeing an earlier start to the Holiday shopping season, unofficially kicked off by a mid-October Prime Day as retailers are under even more pressure to spread out order volume to ease supply chain pressures.

Our Proprietary 2020 Holiday Shopper Survey

We took the pulse on pre-Thanksgiving consumer shopping sentiment, attitudes, and behavior through the McMillanDoolittle 2020 Holiday Shopper Survey.  Our nationally representative survey, currently coming out of field, demonstrates attitudinal shifts in questions we’ve asked throughout the pandemic as well as current perceptions toward Holiday shopping and major specialty retailers in the US that depend on a successful Fourth Quarter Holiday season.

Concerned Consumers are Shopping Earlier and Online

Preliminary results from our study point to a notable increase in shopping earlier, with about 7 in 10 of all consumers stating they already started their Holiday shopping prior to Thanksgiving, reflecting retailer efforts to launch early sales, events and promotions and widespread consumer acceptance of an earlier timeline.  Among those who have started shopping, about 4 in 10 also started shopping earlier compared to last year.

Whether they have started shopping or not, most consumers are worried about shipping delays, packages being lost in the mail, and out-of-stock issues, contributing to earlier purchases for online orders.  Alarmingly, the biggest worries cited, concerning more than 7 in 10 consumers this Holiday season, is the safety of shopping in an indoor mall environment followed closely by stores not being clean enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  Safety and cleanliness concerns coupled with out of stock, crowding, and wait time worries will push even more consumers to pursue the online channel.  Over half of all respondents plan to do most of their Holiday shopping online.  Online orders for home delivery, either to their own home or to the gift recipient’s home are the most popular methods; a much smaller portion are planning to purchase their gifts online but pick them up in-store.

Money-saving Measures are Resonating

The top purchase driver cited for holiday gift purchasing is promotions through Prime Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or other deal days, and more than a third of all respondents reported having previously purchased something during Amazon Prime Day.  Most report an increased focus on deals and discounts relative to last year, which is also indicative of a Holiday season where retailers are launching earlier and longer promotional events.  However, more than 1 in 3 respondents also plan to spend less than they usually do and are concerned about the economy, and a sobering 1 in 4 say they are worried about their ability to afford holiday gifts this year. We expect especially de-emphasized spend on out-of-home categories like apparel.

Stay Tuned for More Insights

We will continue tracking consumer attitudes and behaviors this challenging Holiday season and report on the results across key consumer and retail segments. Be on the lookout for upcoming insights and perspectives on the blog, and simply contact us if you’d like to discuss conducting a holiday tracker to understand your customer’s preferences and priorities this Holiday Season.

Jill Bromann and Emerson Delgado

Jill directs McMillanDoolittle’s consumer insights practice and is experienced in project management, research analysis and strategic planning. Jill leverages her cross-functional knowledge in quantitative and qualitative research techniques to tell unbiased stories through data that uncover insights and identify strategic solutions for her clients. Since joining the team in 2013, Jill has conducted extensive work in survey research, customer intercepts, focus group moderation and in-depth interviews to assist retailers and suppliers in North and South America, Europe and Oceania. Emerson provides day-to-day support for McMillanDoolittle projects across the board, from strategic planning and digital transformation to consumer insights and experience design. He draws on direct experience in the Home and Home Improvement industries as well as in consumer and market research.

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