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Tis the season

Are consumers ready to deck the halls and start returning to stores to shop or will the lingering fear of covid put a damper on the season?

Last year, as the 2020 holiday season approached, the sentiment was not so joyful, but a more high sense of anxiousness and nervousness. What a difference a year makes.

Now, in 2021, that consumer sentiment has completely flipped and consumers are EXCITED And HAPPY about the upcoming holidays, over half, 54% vs. just 39% last year.

And what demographic groups are most excited and happy about the holidays? The sweet spot of this excitement and happiness is of course parents of younger families, particularly driven by moms this holiday season, not dads. This is an exceptionally encouraging insight for retailers as moms have been more anxious throughout the pandemic.

But, it's Gen Z that tops the excited/happy meter this holiday season. This too is excellent news for retailers as this cohort tends to have a passion for all things shopping, and this year should not disappoint.

% Excited /Happy about the Holiday Season

  • 54% Total US

  • 69% of moms with kids under18 vs. 55% of dads

  • 76% of parents with kids 6-8 years old

  • 87% of Gen Z

Given that there are still significant economic challenges across the country, our data shows that about half of lower-income households are excited and happy about the holidays, yet it is significantly lower vs higher-income households.

% Excited /Happy about the Holiday Season

  • 50% under $50K income

  • 53% $50-$100K income

  • 63% Above $100K income

Tis the season to rediscover of the joy of shopping in-stores

While online shopping is here to stay, consumers will be seeking joy this season by shopping in stores.

Yes, you heard me, shopping in stores. Our #JourneyBackToJoy work has shown time and time again that we miss and still crave social experiences. This holiday season consumers are feeling much safer about venturing out to stores. Consumers report that holiday shopping is a satisfying social experience that online experience just can't replicate. Another important facet of shopping in stores is the immediate gratification of walking about the door with gifts in hand.

The big question on everyone's mind: how will online vs. in-store vs. omnichannel shake out this holiday shopping season.

63% of consumers will be engaging with and shopping in stores this holiday season while 37% will be online only.

  • 37% Online only

    • will buy and shop online only

  • 28% Online >>> Store

    • Prefer to shop online to browse and research, but then go to the retail stores to purchase

  • 27% Store Only

    • Prefer to shop and buy in retail stores, without searching online first

  • 9% Store >>> Online

    • Prefer to shop instore to browse and research, but then go online to purchase

The shopping season won't be perfect given staffing shortages and inventory issues

Consumers are expecting things to go a bit off-script given we are still in a global pandemic.

Let's be real. We know things are great out there. There are staffing issues, inflation, inventory challenges, and bad customer behavior. Consumers get it and are planning around that. 50% of Americans are starting their shopping earlier to navigate the challenges.

Some can't afford to purchase gifts this holiday season

As we approach the holidays, let's keep in mind that there are those that are still struggling, really struggling. When asked, how will your holiday shopping activities change this year, compared to the 2020 Holidays, our data shows that 8% of Americans will not be buying gifts because they can't afford them. These numbers are higher for those with lower incomes and younger children. If you have the means, please consider helping those in need this holiday season.

% Will not purchase any gifts because I can’t afford it

  • 8% Total US

  • 13% under $50K vs 5% for $100K

  • 15% of parents with kids under 5

So what? Now what?

The outlook from our data is for the most part encouraging for the retail sector as consumers will be looking for joy this holiday season and shopping in-stores will be a big part of that.

What can retailers do to be most successful?

  • Add little touches of joy throughout the store

    • Decorations

    • Music

    • Treats for customers

  • Be real with customers and help them set expectations of the experience and inventory

    • Best times to shop

    • Be transparent for stock and shipping delays

  • Have your employees back - "The customer isn't always right!"

    • It will go a long way in helping retention to support your staff when there is bad customer behavior. It's going to happen, it's perfectly predictable.

    • Surprise and delight your staff with recognition when they go above and beyond

As consumers, what can we do to have the most joyful holiday shopping experience?

  • Be patient and kind to frontline employees

    • We tell our staff to smile, have eye contact, and say thank you-. How about we reciprocate?

    • Suprise and delight an employee for a job well done - be creative.

  • Have a plan A... then a Plan B, C, and D for your gift list

    • Be flexible when something is out of stock

    • Come prepared with alternative ideas

  • Don't be a last-minute shopper

    • Truth be told, this one is for me... hopefully, this year will be the year!

Editors note:

Given that this is the season of joy, I wanted to thank everyone for their continued support of my #journeybacktojoy research. Your ongoing support has given me the encouragement to keep this passion project alive. I seriously had no idea that I would be doing this research for close to 2 years. We've conducted 40 individual waves of research and interviewed over 40,000 consumers. It's by far the largest study that I've done in my career. We will keep it going as the need for insights continues.

Survey data was collected the week ending November 22, 2021, by Lisa W. Miller & Associates and Prodege, LLC from a representative sample of 1008 adults 18 years and older.

Click here to learn more about this thought-provoking initiative "Gearing Up For The Consumer Re-entry & The The Journey Back to Joy"

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