General, Retail

2019 Holiday Shopping Report Part Two: Expect Holiday Sales To Be Somewhat Flat Year Over Year

Image Credit: Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Some of the biggest holiday shopping days are just around the corner. In less than two weeks’ time, you’ll see more Black Friday shoppers compete with even more Cyber Monday shoppers than last year (read Part One for more on that).

To better understand spending going into the season of giving, CivicScience asked 5,000 holiday shoppers in the U.S. how much they are going to shell out on presents and holiday goodies.

Fifty-one percent of shoppers said they will spend the same amount they did last year, identical to 2018’s number. The only spending difference from 2018 to 2019 is a shift of 1 percentage point – 1% less anticipate spending more than they did last year. If that sentence made you think too hard, you may enjoy the chart below.

Holiday spending intent is flat year over year, but why is that?

Given the growing concern over tariffs and how they are impacting the daily cost of living across the nation, CivicScience took a look at anticipated holiday spending as of November 15 through the lens of economic sentiment. 

It’s no surprise that 53% of those shoppers who are feeling the effects of recent trade policies also say they will spend less this holiday season. Seventy-three percent of shoppers, who haven’t noticed any difference in daily spending, say they will spend the same or more this season. 

Looking at holiday spending compared with consumer sentiment about the economy at large, we see some differences from 2018 to 2019. 

Of those who will spend about the same this year, a larger proportion of this group thinks the economy will get worse (32%) than last year (28%). We see a similar shift in those who plan to spend less: In 2018, 40% of this group said they thought the economy would get worse in six months, this year that number jumped to 44%.

In addition, the group of people who anticipate opening their wallets more this year quickly shrinks as age increases, which also mirrors CivicScience data on concerns over tariffs.

Regarding the people who will spend less, retailers are likely aware that consumers in a lower income bracket tend to spend less. What is interesting is that those making under $50K annually are twice as likely as the $50K – $100K earners to say they won’t be holiday shopping at all this year.

Too Many Gifts, Not Enough Time?

When asked whether the compressed holiday season impacted their shopping, 78% of U.S. shoppers said no, their shopping progress has not been affected. Only 14% of respondents said that the six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year have indeed got them looking and buying earlier.

While the percentage of online holiday shoppers has remained relatively even over the last two years, 57% of people who said the shorter holiday season was impacting their shopping plan to shop online for half or more of their gifts.

The Big Three Retailers

This year, 59% of shoppers say they will buy gifts the most from Amazon, which doubles the amount of shopping they plan to do with Walmart, and four times the amount of shopping they plan to do with Target. 

The Walmart-heavy shoppers were the most likely to anticipate spending less this holiday season (32%), compared to 30% of Amazon shoppers and 27% of Target shoppers.

Parents & Toys

Compared to the general population, shoppers who are parents are more likely to shop for more than half of their gifts online this year. In addition, 37% of shopping parents said they plan to use online retailers, like Amazon.com, for the bulk of their toy purchases. Thirty percent of shopping parents said they will shop for the bulk of their toy purchases in-store at retailers like Target and Walmart.

Grandparents are the farthest along in their holiday shopping, farther than both parents and non-parents. Parents and grandparents together are more likely to be at least halfway or totally finished with their shopping. Non-parents are the most likely to say they have not started shopping at 69%.

Giving Gift Cards Isn’t Lame

You can stop telling yourself that it’s not creative or thoughtful enough to give a gift card, because that is exactly what people are looking for – among other categories of course. 

If you’re about to make your gift list, you might want to rethink who wants what. There is a decent gap between people who are giving “experiences” – tickets, travel money, and more – and people who want to receive those experiences. More people want experiences than people are giving.

People also want more health and beauty products. Those who want a new flatiron, perfume, or aftershave double the amount of givers in that category. Maybe those kinds of gifts are just too personal.

As of mid-November, holiday consumer spending intent is nearly unchanged compared to last year. CivicScience data show this is due to how the economy and trade anxiety is impacting certain sub-populations (older people, lower income), and not impacting others.

Now that you know a little about CivicScience, tell us about you!

  • Hi, my name is
  • and I work for
  • .
  • You can contact me at
  • to keep me in the loop about the latest insights.

Explore More from CivicScience

Finance Finance
Health Healthcare
Hospitality
Media Media & Entertainment
Politics
icon-retail Retail
Technology