Over Half of Shoppers Will Spend as Much or More This Holiday – But Safety Precautions Are Key

A majority of consumers are planning to spend the same – or more – this holiday season, reports PwC’s annual Holiday Outlook survey, which bodes well for retailers looking to make up revenue. But shoppers are still concerned about the safety of the retail experience and questions of trust may determine where they end up spending their money.

The PwC annual survey asked over 1,000 U.S. consumers about their intentions for the holiday season and found that 55% plan to spend as much or more this year. Of the 13% who expect to increase their spending, these shoppers were likely to be under 35 (54%); earners of over $65,000 annually (63%); and city-dwellers (49%). Conversely, the 40% who expect to spend less this year skewed older and suburban or rural.

“Millennial shoppers will spend the most money this holiday, likely because many of them moved home to live with family at the start of the pandemic, while still being employed,” advised the PwC report. “These under-35, high-earning city dwellers are not as worried about getting infected (42%) as those who will spend less (76%).”

For retailers that rely on robust holiday sales, this is positive news after several months of challenging sales numbers. However, shoppers do not view all retailers equally within the context of the pandemic and its associated precautions. Coronavirus remains the biggest concern for shoppers this holiday season; public-health concerns were the most commonly named issue of in-store shopping, by a greater than 2-to-1 margin.

Within the topic of public health, catching the coronavirus was the most feared issue (65%), followed by a lack of social distancing in store (57%) and other shoppers not complying with store measures (55%). But consumers reported being reassured by a number of store protocols that retailers might want to consider implementing, in order to retain store visitors.

Although consumers express concerns over the safety of shopping in-store, precautions like masks can make a big difference in comfort level.

Masks remained the most popular tool; 59% of respondents described compulsory masks for both employees and customers as the safety measure that would make them most comfortable shopping at brick-and-mortar. Restricted customer numbers (45%), readily available hand sanitizer (33%) and regular store cleanings (33%) were the next most popular precautions.

“Health and safety matter most to consumers,” said the report. “However, they are willing to shop in stores if pandemic-related safety procedures are in place, with the overwhelming majority (88%) saying such procedures are important for in-store shopping. Stores should reassure consumers of their safety with the appropriate measures, as well as by communicating effectively via signage and ongoing digital updates.”

PwC also identified that consumers’ priorities have shifted during the pandemic, from frequency of trips to type of store visited. The survey found that 60% of consumers were making fewer, more targeted shopping trips than previously, while 39% opted for smartphone or contactless payments.

Smaller stores and local businesses have also benefited from this shift in consumer behavior: 46% are buying more from local and independent stores than prior to the pandemic. Wellness and health brands have seen visits increase for a third of shoppers, while brands and retailers that offer loyalty programs experienced an increase in popularity with 41% of shoppers.

The 2020 survey found that younger shoppers showed a greater interest in environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices.
CREDIT: Courtesy of PwC

For brands targeting younger consumers, PwC recommends a focus on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices associated with the products they buy. Shoppers aged between 17 – 38 reported greater interest than their older counterparts in areas like suppliers’ labor practices (+17%); the carbon footprint of delivery (+19%); and the carbon footprint of production (+15%).

“Make your store worth the visit,” said PwC’s report. “Consumers are open to new brands that offer stability during this uncertain time. Local options provide a sense of community. Self-care brands serve up solace. ESG is a compelling differentiator.”

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