2019 Holiday Outlook

Visions of sugar plums? Maybe . . .

PwC's 2019 Holiday Outlook explores the likely shopping behaviors of 2,017 US consumers and what they told us about their shopping intentions this holiday season.

Consumers are somewhat optimistic about holiday shopping this year, with 86% telling us they will spend the same or more this holiday as they did in 2018. On average, they will spend $1,284 on gifts, travel and entertainment, a modest increase of 2.7% over last year.

Among our biggest spenders: holiday travelers, college graduates and telecommuters. Meanwhile, almost half of young millennials (aged 24-27) will spend more this holiday season than they did last year, compared to 33% of consumers overall.

How to keep that resolution?

With a little help from a friend*

Employers play their part in wellness too, with some 75% offering wellness-related programs. Which is what employees want. More than 40% told us they believe their employer has a responsibility to help manage their physical health and well-being. And over 80% said they are more likely to work for an employer who does.

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Digital detox my way: Some streaming included

Digital detoxers view the holidays as a time to set aside their busy digital personas and reconnect with loved ones. Some 70% will combine shopping, dining and entertainment. While they will—mostly—shut off their devices, digital entertainment lies squarely within their detoxing routine. Some 80% will stream TV shows, movies, music and social videos this holiday.

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Black Friday: We're kinda over you!

Just a few years ago, Black Friday had the aura of a FOMO event. Now it seems more symbolic than significant in the pantheon of retail holidays. That much is clear from the trends we’ve seen during the five years we’ve surveyed consumers about their holiday shopping habits.

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Give me something different, says Gen Z

Gen Z is just as likely to shop by smartphone as by laptop, unlike older shoppers who are more likely to use laptops. These young shoppers also use shoppable media, pay by smartphone while in stores and shop via in-home voice assistants more than older shoppers do. Having grown up in an age of home delivery, they are open to new forms of alternative delivery.

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Trending for holiday 2019

What do consumers want?
They say, “I want it my way.”

Digitally enabled convenience. That’s what consumers want this holiday. More than two-thirds of shoppers told us they want easily accessible, convenient shopping above all else.

And digital enablement—the consolidation and integration of customer data, inventory, payment and logistics to respond to customer preferences no matter how they choose to order, pay and receive their items—is essential for this level of customer convenience.

Building brand trust
Retailers foster connection and community

The holiday season offers an ideal opportunity for retailers to provide the connection and community that consumers seek; to build relationships that keep them coming back. In doing so, retailers strengthen brand trust, which correlates strongly with buying decisions.

Retailers build brand trust by creating the connections their customers desire: the opportunity to interact with a community by way of classes, workshops, communal spaces, dining options, membership programs and special rewards.

Need gift ideas?
Let’s start with Amazon

More than half of all consumers start their shopping journey online. At Amazon, to be precise. For ideas, price-checks and product reviews, Amazon continues to hold sway. Younger consumers also seek inspiration on social media.

Advertising continues to influence purchasing decisions. For the vast majority of consumers, TV advertising ranks first. For younger consumers, however, digital and social media ads rank higher. They’re also keen on shoppable media.

Why buy new when resale — or rental — will do?
Technology powers new markets

Some 75% of consumers have sustainability in mind when shopping for the holidays. Young consumers are particularly concerned about the environment—Almost half of college students told us they want to consume responsibly.

Already used to sharing homes, cars and even storage space, consumers are now primed to share other possessions, including apparel and furniture. So popular are the new resale and rental markets for apparel that traditional retailers are getting in the game.

Tech-savvy telecommuters prize convenience
And they’re willing to pay for it

Accustomed to the flexibility of working in their jammies, telecommuters are willing to pay for convenience in other areas of their lives. These Amazon Prime members are partial to personal delivery services and responsive to online advertising.

Most work full-time, own pets and seek out environmentally and socially conscious brands. More tech-savvy than the average consumer, telecommuters are more likely to buy wearables and smart-home technology.

The more things change
Mature millennials morph into Gen X

As the oldest millennials (aged 33-37) buy homes and have kids, their tastes and holiday budgets are more reflective of Gen X (aged 38-52) than other millennials. Both groups will shop on Thanksgiving Day in similar proportions.

But how they shop is different. Almost 40% of Gen X will shop only online while some 30% of mature millennials will shop both online and in stores. This is probably because mature millennials are keener on innovative brands that often require an in-person visit before the final decision.

Travelers spend more
Airport retail caters to disposable income

Almost 35% of consumers are planning a vacation this holiday. On average, more millennials plan to travel and spend more at duty-free shops in departure lounges.

Almost half of consumers now buy luxury goods in airports, with cosmetics and fragrances topping the list. Most travelers will stay at branded hotels or with family and friends. While short-term rentals aren’t the first choice for trips, they are gaining in popularity.

Stocking stuffers: bite-sized nuggets from our survey

Lucky dog!

Young consumers spend nearly twice as much on their pets for the holidays than anyone else, especially young millennials aged 24 to 27. This year, they’re planning to spend $140 on average (compared to $76 for pet owners, in general).

Wellness: A millennial imperative

Products and services related to health and wellness are popular with 40% of millennials. They favor authentic, innovative brands that offer a platform for connection within the same community of runners, yoga buffs or clean beauty product enthusiasts.

Gathering for the holidays

What do consumers value most about the holidays? Almost 75% said time with family and friends. They socialize more during the holidays, with some overindulging more than others.

Unplug and chill

A device-free, digital detox zone sounds like nirvana to some this holiday season. Except for digital entertainment, that is, with some 80% of consumers planning to stream music, movies, TV and social videos.

Treat customer data with care

As retailers shore up for the holidays, consumers want reassurance that their data is safe. Consumers have told us consistently that brand trust is paramount to their buying decisions. Fundamental to brand trust is knowing their data is secure.


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Tyson Cornell

Consumer Markets Industry Leader, PwC US

Allison Stone

Consumer Markets, PwC US

Krystin Weseman

Consumer Markets, Senior Analyst, PwC US

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