How Different Are Holiday Shopping Trends in 2020?

Aaron Moss, PhD

By Aaron Moss, PhD, Cheskie Rosenzweig, MS & Shalom Jaffe

More Shoppers – Particularly Democrats – Are Moving Online and Starting Their Shopping Earlier

As the leaves fall and the pages on the calendar turn, retailers are thinking about the holiday shopping season. The pandemic has, of course, made 2020 an unusual year for retail. Some areas of consumer spending are up, many are down, and retailers are pinning their hopes on a strong holiday shopping season. 

As recently reported on the radio program Marketplace, the COVID-19 holiday shopping season has already begun. To understand how and how much consumers plan to shop, we conducted a national survey with 789 online respondents matched to the U.S. population. Participants were sampled from Prime Panels, an online survey platform offered by

Breaking Down Holiday Shopping Data – By the Numbers

Key Insights:

  • 48% of respondents plan to shop the same amount as last year
  • 37% plan to shop less, while 14% plan to shop more
  • 23% of respondents plan to begin shopping earlier than usual
  • 43% of respondents are planning to shop primarily online
  • 85% of people say they intend to shop either the same amount or more online compared to last year

We found about half of people (48%) saying they planned to shop the same amount as last year. As you might expect given the economic damage created by COVID-19, more people reported that they plan to shop less (37%) than said they would shop more (14%).

We also asked people when and how they plan to shop. Most people (46%) reported that they planned to begin shopping in November, while another 36% reported that they had already started shopping by early October or planned to start sometime in October. In a glimmer of hope for retailers, 23% of people said they plan to begin shopping earlier than usual while the largest chunk of people (60%) said they plan to begin shopping at the same time they usually do.

Many analysts and retailers expect a large increase in online shopping this holiday season — CloudResearch’s survey supports this expectation. About 43% of people in our survey said they plan to shop mostly online, while another 35% said they plan to shop equally online and in stores. Notably, however, 85% of people said they plan to shop either the same amount or more online compared to previous years, while 40% of people said they plan to shop less in stores compared to previous years.  

Shopping Trends by Generation and Political Identification

There are also some interesting trends when you dig deeper into the data. For example, people aged 55 and older are more likely than younger people to say they plan to spend less this holiday season.

Our survey also finds that self-identified Democrats plan to shop online at a higher rate (48%) than either Republicans (38%) or Independents (39%). We suspect this is related to Democrats’ higher levels of concern about COVID-19, as measured in the same survey. We found that 59.2% of Democrats were “moderately” or “extremely” concerned about shopping in stores due to COVID-19, as compared to only 36.4% of Republicans.

Overall, while our survey offers retailers a few reasons to be optimistic about the holiday shopping season, it does appear that more people are planning to shop online this year compared to previous years, particularly among Democrats. How well consumers’ behavior matches their intentions may very well depend on how they feel about the coronavirus as the holidays approach.   

For the full report, click here.

Want to learn more about the panel we used to gather this data? Check out our Prime Panels page to see how you can find participants for your next online study.

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