Holiday data

What are consumers’ holiday intentions? New study gives a full breakdown

Circana's annual Holiday Purchase Intentions study reveals valuable insights on how consumer behavior is changing, plus economical impacts and more.

Lenise Willis//Editor in Chief//October 26, 2023

CHICAGO — With talk of rising costs and inflation and how consumers’ holiday shopping might be affected, retailers and industry experts alike have been speculating whether this holiday will be a season of cheer or a season of fear. Are consumers still planning to spend, or will they be more money conscious?

Circana’s newly released Holiday Purchase Intentions Study just might have some of the answers. The annual study combines valuable perspective on how consumer behavior is changing compared to recent years when it comes to spending and celebrations, as well as new insight into things that are having the biggest impact on that behavior, such as the economy, demographics, timing, value, social media and pent-up demand.

Consumers are giving thought to spending less this holiday season, but they’re still setting their own purchase priorities,”  said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor at Circana. In Cohen’s written report about the study, he points out that “consumers convey conflicted feelings about spending this holiday season,” and “old and new traditions come together for a different kind of shopping season.”

Conclusions Cohen made in the report include:

  • Overall, consumers plan to spend similarly to last year on holiday shopping, but they are also prepared to spend more on core gift items.
  • Demographics reveal unexpected shifts, with the largest declines in the upper- and lower-income segments.
  • Planned credit card usage has hit a new high.
  • Plans for both charitable giving and self-gifting have fallen this year.
  • Negative feelings about the economy and personal financial situations have both escalated, compounding last year’s concerns.
  • Mass merchants, department, chain and clothing stores are high on shoppers’ lists, but stores providing food, value and an experience will capture more of the consumer’s attention.
  • Nearly one-third of the respondents, 29%, plan to spend on the home, with a mean spend of $348.
  • More consumers will celebrate the holidays at home – 61% of consumers plan to eat their Christmas meal at home, up five percentage points from last year.

“Conflicted spending apprehension from the consumer, combined with the potential for a three-week long, last-minute spending surge in December, makes Holiday 2023 a complex one to plan for and measure,” Cohen added in the report. “Christmas Day lands on a Monday this year, which will split Super Saturday shopping once again (between Dec. 23 and the weekend before), while also giving consumers the ability to push their shopping right up to the last minute on Sunday, Dec. 24. Retailers will need to wait for Christmas week results to get a true read on how the traditional season ended.”

Consumers will not only be shopping later than usual for the holiday season, but they’ll also be putting a higher emphasis on getting a good deal. Circana’s report says: “Overall value for the price and special sale price both grew as top factors that will influence where consumers will shop for gifts this year, identified by more than 40% of holiday shoppers.”

The 22-page robust report also covers the growth and decline of gift categories, how social media will influence consumers’ decisions and more.

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