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How COVID-19 Is Changing the Holiday Shopping Season 



2020 has transformed consumers’ shopping needs, priorities, and expectations, and holiday shopping won’t be any exception. Given upended traditions and tighter budgets, according to Morning Consult, Americans are preparing for a holiday season that starts earlier, is more online, keeps budgets in check and raises more health and safety concerns than ever before. 


Nearly half (47 percent) of Americans plan to do most of their holiday shopping online, with 48 percent of those that do citing safety concerns as the primary reason why; convenience is the main reason for nearly a third (29 percent) and a preference for online shopping driven by increased usage in recent months is top for just over a fifth (21 percent). Thirty-one percent plan to roughly split their holiday shopping between online and in store while 27 percent plan to do most holiday shopping in stores. 


The most popular gift this year will likely be gift cards, according to Morning Consult, which reports that 48% of adults plan to buy or give gift cards this holiday season. 

Three times as many shoppers said they will spend most on gift cards versus the next-highest gift type (apparel, which 9% plan to spend most on). 


The combination of a struggling economy and a health pandemic will almost certainly impact holiday spending negatively this year: The share of U.S. adults planning to spend $300 or less on holiday gifts has increased by 9 percentage points while the share planning to spend more than $400 has declined by 8 percentage points. 


It’s important for brands to remember that 90 percent of Americans aren’t looking forward to this year’s holiday season (only 10 percent said they are). 


Still, only 5 percent of Americans think companies shouldn’t advertise this holiday season — though this nearly triples among Gen Zers, 14 percent of which are not in favor of companies doing holiday advertising.  


Americans are more likely to buy from companies whose ads either explain how they’re keeping shoppers safe or provide gift ideas, or those with realistic or optimistic ads. Serious or somber ads will most likely lead to net decreases in purchasing. 


Most Americans have pandemic-related concerns this holiday season. Delivery speeds are a concern for slightly more than half, but the good news for retailers is that time constraints around holiday shopping and finding gifts that won’t disappoint are not concerns for most shoppers. 

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