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2020 Holiday Outlook: What to Expect, and How to Prepare

Published Oct 28, 2020

Ron Ruffinott, VP, Head of Research Solutions

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This has been a year of the unexpected, with ever-changing consumer behavior further complicating things. It’s more important than ever to keep your finger on the pulse of what your target audience wants and expects for the 2020 holiday shopping season and beyond.

Here’s an example: We know that social distancing and travel concerns will impact holiday celebrations dramatically, yet shopping — including in-store — remains a priority. Caution isn’t extending to in-store shopping experience, as expectations of deals and shortages persist.

Surprised that consumers don’t plan to avoid stores this year? It’s just one example of the unpredictability of consumer behavior. Let’s look at other overarching trends, holiday by holiday, to understand how things are tracking.

Halloween 2020 is still a go.

While it’ll look different for many families this year, 89% of Americans plan to celebrate Halloween this year with family-only house parties, virtual gatherings, or traditional trick-or-treating. A whopping 98% say they’ll buy candy to treat themselves and others.

Key takeaway:

  • While trick-or-treating will likely be scaled back this year, candy sales are up ahead of Halloween. This speaks to a strong desire to return to normalcy and an emotional need for consumers to treat themselves for their endurance over the last several months.

Expect less travel and large gatherings this Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving 2020 promises more intimate celebrations with far less travel than in years passed. In fact, while 90% of people say they’ll celebrate, 58% say they don’t plan to travel at all. Consumers are trending away from “Friendsgiving” celebrations as well, opting instead for quiet gatherings of immediate family only.

Key takeaway:

  • Even broadly celebrated holidays like Thanksgiving will look different in 2020. How and where consumers will travel, who they’ll celebrate with, and the size of those gatherings will be impacted. Only 14% of people plan to attend large family functions.

Shoppers will still hit the stores for Black Friday deals.

Consumers have started their holiday shopping early this year. Why? They’re worried about stock and product availability. And the majority — 79% — look forward to bigger sales on Black Friday, with nearly half saying they’ll hit the stores in person. Consumers also believe there will be great deals to be had on Cyber Monday, but only 68% will participate.

Key takeaway:

  • Again, we’re seeing people looking for a return to normalcy. They’re shopping earlier given this year’s shortages, and are concerned with shipping delays. We’ll see people compromise in some areas, with 56% saying they’ll pay more for gifts in short supply.

More intimate holiday and New Year’s gatherings are ahead.

Even fewer plan to gather in groups for December holidays than for Thanksgiving, and fewer still for New Year’s celebrations this year. This includes house parties, of which 48% plan to attend one for the holidays, and just 12% to welcome a new year. New Year’s resolutions are on the rise, with a focus on happiness, health, and self-care.

Key takeaway:

  • There’s a “back to basics” approach to the holidays and end of 2020, with most consumers opting for small family gatherings. Resolutions look to be simpler, less commercial, and more reflective on learnings from the past year.

Brands and retailers, take heart! Shopping (including in-store) remains a priority this holiday season, and celebrations are still on. Remember to stay in touch with your target audience as their needs continue to evolve — and fast — so you can keep up for holiday 2020 and into the coming year.

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