• Retail Dive

Consumers are spending less this holiday season: survey

By Tatiana Walk-Morris

Published Dec. 9, 2020



Dive Brief:

  • According to a new survey from FTI Consulting, consumers are spending about 4% less this holiday season overall than last year. Thirty-three percent of survey respondents said they will spend somewhat or significantly less than last year, while only 15% are spending more. Almost a third (32%) are spending about the same, according to survey findings.

  • The report also found that consumers had already completed 39% of their holiday shopping when the survey was conducted in early November. Gen Z consumers were the largest group to complete holiday shopping (46%), followed by Gen X (42%), millennials (35%) and baby boomers (33%).

  • When it comes to promotions, 26% of consumers said they have a price in mind for desired items, but they don't look for a sale. However, a quarter of respondents wait for at least 40% off and 17% of consumers said they're waiting for sales of at least 60% off.

Dive Insight:


FTI Consulting's findings suggest that consumers could spend less this year than they have in previous holiday seasons. The failure of Congress to pass another stimulus package has left retailers with more economic uncertainty during the 2020 holiday shopping season. The National Retail Federation said this fall that the lack of stimulus funding could slow or stop consumer spending as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.


Echoing other findings about the 2020 holiday shopping season, slightly more than 80% of FTI Consulting survey respondents said they were going to shop more online this year compared to last year, but consumers are planning to spend a bit less than before. Research from Adobe points to increases in Black Friday and Cyber Monday online shopping, but projections of how the overall holiday sales will compare to previous years have varied. Though the International Council of Shopping Centers projected a 1.9% growth in holiday sales, the NRF predicted that the holiday sales growth could range between 3.6% and 5.2%.


FTI Consulting also found that the reasoning behind shopping via e-commerce had little to do with health or safety reasons connected to COVID-19. Instead, respondents pointed to "convenience, best prices and free shipping" far more frequently. That, in turn, may mean that the uptick in online sales "will stick once the pandemic passes," according to the report.


With more consumers holding out for deeper discounts, FTI Consulting's survey also notes the diminished importance of shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, because retailers have spread out their discounts in preparation for high shipping volumes. Per the survey, 49% of respondents purchased holiday gifts during Amazon's Prime Day event. Those who took part in the event completed more than half of their intended holiday spending that day. Following Amazon's lead, other retailers, including Target, Walmart and Best Buy, also rolled out similar shopping events ahead of the holidays.