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Consumers Plan to Spend More and Gift More This Holiday Season

Consumers plan to spend and gift more this holiday season, but with continued concerns over COVID-related impacts on gifting, consumers also plan to shop early, continue to shift their holiday shopping online and once again look to gift cards. These are among the findings of the 2021 Holiday Shopping Forecast released by global branded payments provider Blackhawk Network. The report also found that as both retailers and shoppers look to find the best ways to navigate some of the challenges this holiday season looks to present, consumers have shifted their perspective on gifting, creating a new opportunity for retailers to connect with customers.

“People are really looking forward to holiday shopping, gifting and celebrating together again after yet another year that has created chaos and change for consumers and business alike,” said Theresa McEndree, head of global marketing and brand, Blackhawk Network. “Our research shows that many consumers plan to buy more gifts and spend more money than they did in 2020, but there have been notable shifts in what consumers find important and how they are planning to navigate shipping delays and potential out-of-stock issues. For retailers, that means finding opportunities like preparing for early shoppers, providing a seamless digital gifting experience and highlighting gifts that give back to uniquely engage customers this holiday season when consumers’ pandemic shopping habits can either be cemented or will return to prior norms and preferences.”

Blackhawk Network’s Holiday Forecast examined attitudes and behaviors around holiday gifting, eCommerce trends and shopper outlook. The report identified the following trends:

Gift cards are primed for another big holiday season

As the most requested holiday gift for nearly 15 years, recipients have long-loved receiving gift cards during the holidays. Blackhawk’s 2021 report shows that gift cards continue to grow in popularity for gifters as well. Last holiday, as consumers looked for convenient, contactless ways to spread holiday cheer, gift cards recorded a banner year as one of the season’s most popular gifts. This year, because of the ease of giving a gift card and the growing concern over slower delivery times and inventory issues, gift cards are well-positioned for another successful holiday season. Eighty-three percent of consumers surveyed want to give a gift card instead of a physical gift this year. Surveyed shoppers plan on purchasing 15 gift cards on average, and expect to spend 41% of their holiday gifting budget, or $272 on average, on gift cards this year. This is a 27% increase from what consumers reported spending on gift cards last year.

Consumers are worried about shipping delays and out-of-stocks. Nearly a quarter (24%)of U.S. consumers surveyed say they will shop earlier this year due to concern over shipping delays (30%) or worry that the pandemic will impact their ability to shop (36%).

• No one wants to give a bad gift or deal with returns. Forty percent of consumers surveyed report they have received a bad gift and nearly three-quarters (73%) of shoppers are also annoyed when they have to return or exchange a gift. Gift cards can help alleviate returns as a pain point for both shoppers and retailers by offering the gift of choice.

• Dining and multi-brand gift cards will top shopping lists this year. The most popular gift card categories this holiday season will be dining/restaurant, multi-brand gift cards (gift cards for multiple brands) and grocery and mass merchant. Additionally, shoppers surveyed expect to shop for their gift cards at mass merchandiser/big box stores, online-retailers, grocery stores, online retailers and convenience stores.

The shift to digital is here to stay this holiday season

COVID has accelerated digitization years ahead of expectations driving the consumer expectation for everywhere commerce. Since the pandemic began, 59% of consumers surveyed have started or increased their use of digital wallets and 43% started using or increased their use of digital gift cards. The shift toward digital looks to continue this holiday season with a third of consumers (32%) surveyed planning to pay for their holiday gifts with gift cards and more than a quarter (26%) plan to pay with PayPal/Venmo. A few the surveyed consumers (4%) even report that they are planning to pay for holiday gifts using cryptocurrency this year. The shift to online holiday gift purchasing will also continue with 50% of shoppers surveyed planning to purchase holiday gifts digitally due to COVID. The shift is led by younger generations with 61% of Gen Z and 67% of Millennials reporting they will purchase their holiday gifts digitally.

Consumers are redefining what’s important and looking for meaningful gifts

A recent study by Accenture defines half of all consumers surveyed as, “Reimagined,” meaning 50% of this heterogenous group—not segmented by age, gender, location or otherwise—say that the pandemic caused them to rethink their personal purpose and re-evaluate what’s important to them. Having made stark changes to their routines and perceptions since the start of the pandemic, consumers have never been more open to embracing new experiences and forming new habits. Gifting is no exception. Consumers are looking to support these shifts by giving more meaningful gifts this holiday season. Rather than gifting based on what recipients want, 60% of shoppers surveyed plan to purchase gifts based on what others need. Consumers are also looking to give back this year. Fifty-seven percent of surveyed shoppers plan to send gifts to those who’ve experienced hardships, and more than 60% are looking for ways to give back to causes this year, with 68% reporting they intend to purchase gift cards that benefit charitable causes.