Press Release: American Consumers Aren’t Expecting a Merry Holiday Season

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Meanwhile, Consumers’ Research finds seniors flocking to Online Holiday Gift-Buying during pandemic

Washington, D.C. — November 18, 2020: The annual holiday survey from the nation’s oldest consumer organization found holiday shoppers in a dark mood. Each year, Consumers’ Research asks, “Do you think this Holiday season will be a Merry Holiday?” In 2020, only 38% of American shoppers are expecting their holiday to be merry. The drop was dramatic – an eighteen point decrease from 2019’s 55%.

The decrease in merriment came with an increase in consumers believing their holiday would be generally unmerry. Twice the number of respondents said their holiday season would be unmerry, as did the number of respondents saying their holiday season would be completely unmerry.

“The numbers in the year’s survey are a warning sign. Americans aren’t in a good place going into the holiday season. Consumers feel alone. It’s up to each one of us to spread holiday cheer to stave off a dark winter.” said Will Hild, Executive Director of Consumers’ Research.

While merriment may be down, the survey found that the COVID-19 pandemic has made America’s seniors substantially more comfortable with holiday shopping online. According to the Consumers’ Research 2020 Holiday Shopping Survey, 29% of seniors said they will do most or all of their shopping online, while 28% of senior respondents indicated that they intend to do most or all of their shopping in a store.

Senior preference for online shopping jumped five percentage points after holding steady at 27% in 2018 and 2019. Conversely, the number favoring in-store shopping during the holiday season dropped four points after holding steady at 29% the previous two years.

In addition, 33% of consumers surveyed indicated that they will be participating in Small Business Saturday, a jump from 24% in 2019. This could be a sign that consumers are eyeing local businesses in lieu of major corporations for their holiday shopping.

“Seniors are getting more comfortable navigating the online marketplace. At the same time it appears that consumers are consciously looking to shop at local small businesses. It could be that holiday shoppers see spending money locally as a way they can help bolster their local economy,” Hild continued.

The Consumers’ Research survey also asked respondents to rate the each of the following activities during the holidays according to their highest priorities, using a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest rating. Consumers identified “quality time with loved ones” as the most desirable gift, with 61% putting it at the top of their wish list. “Enhancing your spiritual life” was a distant second place (26%), followed by “sticking to your budget” (24%), great meals (21%), gift giving (12%), charitable giving (10%) and gift receiving (3%).

Consumers’ Research holiday survey results are also available online for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

About Consumers’ Research:

Consumers’ Research, founded in 1929, is the nation’s oldest consumer organization that seeks to increase the knowledge and understanding of issues, policies, products, and services of concern to consumers. For more information visit:

About the Survey:

The survey was conducted from November 5-9, 2020 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel. AmeriSpeak® is NORC’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population, which sets it apart from traditional “opt-in” or “convenience” panels. Interviews of approximately 1,000 U.S. adults (18+) were conducted both online and by telephone. The margin of error on weighted data is +/- 3 percentage points for the full sample.



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