2021 Holiday Shopping Retrospective

Since 2019, Explorer has completed an annual holiday shopping study to understand how Americans are preparing, shopping, and celebrating the holiday season (Thanksgiving through to New Years). Our Shopper Insights Report on 2021 Holiday Shopping Behaviors revealed some interesting findings.

During this holiday season, sustainability was top of mind for shoppers, with 1/3 feeling it was even more important during the holidays than other times of the year. Shoppers used LED lights, reused gift wrap, and tried to shop locally. As we look to upcoming holiday seasons, retailers and manufacturers should ensure that sustainability is a key component of their product and marketing plans.

Inspiration for the holiday season is an important part of planning for the holidays and not surprisingly food is an important part of the festivities! Shoppers primarily rely on family recipes (64%) to inform their holiday meals. Additional inspiration comes from online searches (39%), family and friends (64%), Facebook (32%), and Pinterest (26%). In-store plays a role as well, with shoppers seeking inspiration from in-store resources like displays, recipes, and other POS (29%). These sources have remained consistent year over year. As a brand, if you are not using online as sources of inspiration around the holiday season ensure that you incorporate that into 2022 holiday planning.

We saw a return to in-store grocery shopping this holiday season, but also online grocery shopping was consistent with last year’s level. Where we saw a decline was in the need to buy online and pick up in-store (BOPIS) which returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2021, as shoppers preferred going in-store to buy their groceries if they were already making the trip. Despite shoppers returning to brick-and-mortar locations, online holiday grocery shopping maintained its 2020 popularity. For all other categories, 52% of shopping was online versus pre-pandemic levels at 39%. We saw increases in online versus a year ago for clothing, electronics, athletic stores, and department stores. Online shopping is here to stay, for the holiday season 2022 brands should look to how they can connect inspiration and ideas to activate purchases.

Families and friends were excited to reconnect, and we saw a return to in-person holiday dinners at levels similar to pre-pandemic (e.g., holiday dinner, family over, holiday party/event, etc.). As well, baking was at levels higher than during and before the pandemic.

Unique to 2021, the majority of people were concerned about supply chain issues impacting holiday shopping; a similar proportion were concerned about inflation. As a result, we saw deal searching behavior increase and many were planning to spend less or knowing they’d have to increase spend just to maintain the same level of gifting they did last year.

Holiday 2021 had some unique challenges with supply chain and lingering effects of the global pandemic, however, as we start planning for holiday 2022 some important lessons can be incorporated around trends that are here to stay such as sustainability, online shopping, and sources of inspiration.

Click here to download the full report.

Please contact us if you would like more information on our holiday shopping report.

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