St. Leo, FL – The message this year regarding holiday gifts could be “it’s the thought that counts,” as some Americans fear they will not be able to purchase certain presents for their loved ones because of shipping issues and economic woes. A new Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey examined opinions of Americans and Floridians of those who say they will celebrate Christmas regarding holiday shopping.
The number of Americans who say they will celebrate Christmas has decreased from the last time Saint Leo asked the question in 2019 (pre-COVID pandemic). Among Americans surveyed, 79.5 say they will celebrate the holiday in 2021, down from 88.9 percent in 2019. In Florida, 82 percent will make merry, which also is down from 2019 polling, which showed 89.2 percent of Florida respondents said they would celebrate Christmas.
“Many people are saying they are going to celebrate Christmas differently this year than in the past,” said Dr. Keith Jones, associate
professor of marketing in Saint Leo University’s Tapia College of Business. “They have recognized the importance of doing things with friends and family rather than buying gifts—for example dining out rather than buying an outfit or other item.”
The Saint Leo University poll was conducted online, October 17-23, among 1,000 total respondents nationally. The resulting margin of error for the results is 3.0 percentage points in either direction. In Florida, 500 additional people were polled. The margin of error for the responses is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Poll respondents in 2019 and 2021 were asked what they expected to spend—in total—on holiday gifts for family and friends excluding charitable donations. The following table reflects gift spending as reported:
The poll also asked whether the pandemic will affect their holiday expenditures. Respondents were asked if they strongly agreed, somewhat agreed, somewhat disagreed, or strongly disagreed with the statement: “I will have less money to spend over the coming holidays because of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Those who report they strongly or somewhat agree with the statement comprise 46.5 percent nationally, and among the Florida poll respondents, 50.6 percent.
Respondents also were asked, compared to last year, what their spending levels might be in 2021. The results are displayed below:
“With the economic issues at hand, people are not wanting to create financial burdens by spending more this year,” Jones said. “While they may be making the same level of expenditures, for whom and for what they expend the money will look different this year; they will look for more meaningful gifts.” He added that the trend is focusing more on activities than items, so people may be gifting “experiences” to their loved ones such as vacations, recreation activities, and spending time together engaging in a new hobby or activity.
The Saint Leo University poll also asked all respondents who celebrate Christmas if the following statements applied to them. The table holds the percent of respondents reporting “yes.”
“As always, those items that are in high demand will be in short supply especially if they are coming from overseas,” Jones noted. “Even the most basic things—there have been several reports discussing there may be limited wines and spirits because of the lack of glass bottles.”
For all retailers, the impact is going to be on supplies, he added. “If they do not have a stable supply chain, they will not have the product to sell and will suffer. I have not seen anything that indicates the consumer's willingness to switch if a product is not available, but I personally believe we will see this happening.”
His advice to retailers: Step up your traditional practices. “We are already seeing 'Black Friday' sales being offered,” Jones said. “We are also seeing seasonal discounts in place. However, most studies indicate that the consumer should not expect as deep of discounts or as aggressive price promotions as in the past. With product shortage, the retailer cannot afford to 'give away' product as in the past. While they will discount, it may only be 10 percent this year rather than the 15 percent last year.”
Jones said there are indications that “buying local” will have a greater emphasis this year than in past, and the Saint Leo University poll results show 50.1 percent of national respondents and 56.1 percent of Florida respondents say they plan to shop at local markets and shops. “Again, the local shop may have the item in stock that the bigger retailer does not, simply because the smaller retailer is sometimes overlooked,” the Saint Leo marketing faculty member noted.
While many people say there now is a tendency to go the online purchasing route, Jones said there is some indications people are ready to “be back in the store and shopping again.”
He said local businesses need to have a digital presence as many people will e-shop then go and make a “brick-and-mortar” purchase in the store. “The big e-commerce players also will be experiencing supply chain issues as much if not more than the smaller business,” Jones said. “I have personally noticed in my own e-commerce shopping that many more products are 'out-of-stock' than you would normally see at this point in the season.”
Jones recommends that consumers begin by shopping local. “It may be the smaller, local stores will have an item in inventory because no one thinks about them as a source,” he noted. “Then if you cannot find it locally, expand your shopping experience. Many local shops and shop owners are much more customer-friendly and work with customers more personally than larger corporations. The local shop is more likely to call when an item arrives if they know you are willing to wait. It is also the local business that can provide the more personal items that seem to be in vogue this season.”