A new study from the NPD Group finds that 29 percent of US consumers plan to spend more on holiday shopping than they did last year, with holiday spending estimated to rise 3 percent during the traditional November and December holiday shopping season and 5 percent when the season is expanded to include October and early January.

Nearly two-thirds of consumers expect their 2021 holiday season will be more like it was last year, than it was during the pre-pandemic holiday season in 2019. Despite personal financial situations and the state of the economy, the survey reveals a rise in consumer optimism about the holidays this year, especially with the rise of online shopping.

“It’s going to be a hybrid holiday this year, blending the return of a celebratory feeling with the now normalized pandemic lifestyle,” says Marshal Cohen,  chief retail industry advisor for NPD. “We expect the consumer’s sustained propensity to spend will carry through the traditional November and December shopping period. However, shopping in the here-and-now, and other spending styles that have emerged during the pandemic will bring additional growth to the expanded October-into-January shopping season this year.” 

Other findings from the study:

  • One-third of consumers plan to buy more gifts because they will be seeing family and friends over the holidays
  • Six out of ten consumers (58%) are more comfortable shopping in stores, now that vaccines are widely available
  • 32% of consumers are less concerned than they were last year about COVID-19
  • The amount consumers plan to spend this year has increased, driven by consumers who plan to spend $1,000 or more
  • More than half (51%) of consumers plan to start their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving, compared to 49% last year

“New optimism, along with underlying uncertainty, are fueling shopping expectations, making this a more complex holiday season for consumers and marketers, alike,” Cohen says. “But retailers and manufacturers that remain flexible will be able to navigate the diverse landscape of consumer behavior and arrive at a successful holiday result.”