U.S. consumer behavior has changed dramatically in 2020 and the holidays are no exception. Here’s an overview on how Americans plan to shop the holidays and 10 ways you can take advantage of these trends.


Shop Online

This holiday season, 80% of people plan to shop online and 43% plan to do all their shopping online to skip the crowds, germs and cold weather. Online shopping is no longer exclusive to younger generations. While baby boomers have historically made 82% of purchases offline, 45% report shopping online more often this year.


Pick Up Curbside

Just 18% of people plan to shop exclusively in stores (down from 22% last year), and nearly 9 out of 10 people say safety measures are important to them. Many stores now offer contactless curbside pickup and extended holiday hours. Between now and Dec. 24, Nordstrom is offering a surprise gift to the first 50 customers that use curbside pickup each day.


Skip the Line

Skip the outdoor wait and make a reservation to shop at your favorite stores this holiday season. Many retailers will face long lines outside as they limit the number of guests in their stores, especially on Black Friday and weekends in December. Just 10% of Americans plan to shop Black Friday doorbusters in-person this year. Nordstrom is offering “Reserve & Try in Store” reservations on its mobile app. For the iPhone 12 launch, make an Apple Genius Bar or Express Store appointment to pick up your order. Tiffany is offering virtual appointments to help you find the perfect piece, and Louis Vuitton has introduced mobile trailers that bring the store to you.


Find Must-Have Gifts

Home, tech, fitness, toys and beauty are expected to be the top-selling categories this year. Check out Amazon’s and the Today Show’s comprehensive gift guides for ideas.


Shop Deals Early

Start now — the deals are here! For Americans, 75% plan to finish their holiday shopping early, and over half plan to do the bulk of their shopping in November. Hundreds of retailers began running Black Friday promotions in October to spread sales out across a longer season. . In the U.S., 81% of consumers plan to shop on promotional days this holiday season and 42% of Americans plan to spend >$500 on Black Friday. RetailMeNot.com, BestBlackFriday.com, TheBlackFriday.com and DealNews.com summarize today’s best offers. Comparison shop to get the best price. If you plan to make a large purchase, sign up for the retailer’s newsletter ahead of time for a chance at an insider coupon. Watch for a season of great deals as many retailers offer deep discounts to reduce inventory before they close a large wave of stores starting in January.


Ship Early

Shipageddon” is coming! Ship gifts before Dec. 15 this year to ensure on-time delivery. For Americans, 83% expect their favorite brands to offer free shipping and 51% expect tracking, which most people say eases concerns about on-time delivery.  In the U.S., 30% of consumers plan to ship gifts early this year with no plans to see friends or family in-person. As shipping containers fill up, ports experience delays and orders exceed global capacity by 5%, up to 700 million packages are expected to be delayed this holiday season — including up to 7 million packages a day in the U.S. between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Though it is only November, deliveries are already reaching stores ~2 weeks late. The U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS and Amazon collectively plan to hire 310,000 seasonal workers, add up to $4 surcharges, and turn away new business customers to manage the surge.


Find Free Delivery

To make your holidays bright, is offering a holiday lights installation service this year for one- and two-story homes. For those who celebrate Christmas, both Walmart and Lowe’s are offering free Christmas tree, wreath and poinsettia delivery service for the first time this year. Most shoppers (66%) are willing to pay for loyalty or subscription programs that offer faster or free shipping. If you need to send out many gifts this year, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM offers free unlimited shipping of thousands of food, floral and personalized gifts to members for a $20 flat annual fee; the platform also stores your addresses and sends you reminders ahead of birthdays and other special occasions.


Zoom With Santa

For those with young children in their lives, Santa has gone virtual and is available for personalized video chats on SantasClub.com and other sites. For in-person visits, North Pole insiders say the least crowded day to see Santa is on Cyber Monday. Many malls require reservations in advance, so book early.


Set a Budget

To create a sense of normalcy, most Americans plan to decorate their homes and exchange gifts with family and friends. Total U.S. holiday sales are expected to grow just +1% to +1.5% this year to ~$1 trillion with the digital channel growing +33% yoy and in-store sales -5% yoy. Global holiday spending is expected to top $5 trillion. While Americans plan to spend -4% less on travel and -13% less on entertainment this holiday season than in 2019, the average person plans to spend $719 on gifts — flat from last year. People generally plan to give fewer gifts but spend more per person. Just 15% of Americans plan to spend more on gifts this year. Instead, people are spending +53% more on grocery shopping and +9% more on home improvement.


Give to a Worthy Cause

Charitable holiday giving is a tradition in many homes, and many people give donations in lieu of gifts to honor special people in their lives. To spotlight a growing need, 1 in 9 Americans, including 1 in 6 children, struggle with food insecurity in a typical year. Donations at many food bank charities have not kept up with the surge in demand in 2020. Teams of Westwood employees regularly volunteer at the North Texas Food Bank, which distributed 60 million pounds of food between March and September, +72% more than the same period in 2019. While times are tough for many this season, together we can make things a little brighter.

We hoped you enjoyed Westwood’s overview of consumer trends and smart shopping strategies for the holidays. From all of us here at Westwood, have a happy and healthy holiday season. We look forward to seeing you in 2021!

Lauren Hill, CFA®
Vice President, Portfolio Manager

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