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Where — and How Much — Consumers Plan to Shop This Holiday Season

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Financial strain, global supply chain disruptions and labor and inventory shortages might make it harder for consumers to check off items on their holiday gift lists this season. But that doesn’t seem to be stopping shoppers from dropping cash this holiday season.

LendingTree is again covering Deloitte’s annual holiday retail survey. Earlier, we covered consumer sentiment. Today, we’ll focus on consumer behavior.

This portion of the survey from Deloitte, an accounting and consulting firm based in New York, reveals holiday shoppers plan to spend 62% of their expected holiday budget online, at an average of $924. They’ll spend 33% of their expected budget in stores, at an average of $440.

Consumers continue to lean on digital shopping platforms

U.S. consumers leaned toward online retailers and doorstep delivery for their shopping needs at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The trend is expected to continue this holiday season, though at a slightly smaller clip.

While consumers expect to spend 62% of their holiday budget online, that’s a slight dip from 64% last season. In-person shopping, meanwhile, is expected to see a 5 percentage point jump, from 28% in 2020 to 33% in 2021.

So where exactly are consumers dropping cash for gifts this holiday season? Many respondents plan on shopping at mass merchants, online-only retailers and local independent stores, while dollar stores and outlet stores or centers will get the least action. Here’s the breakdown:

At which of the following types of retailers will you likely shop for holiday gifts?
Type of retailer 2021 2020
Online-only retailers 55% 58%
Mass merchants 51% 50%
Local independent stores 27% 26%
Off-price stores 26% 24%
Traditional department stores 26% 26%
Warehouse membership clubs 24% 23%
Bookstores 22% 23%
Electronics, office supply and computer stores 21% 22%
Specialty beauty stores 19% 21%
Supermarkets or grocery stores 19% 26%
Home improvement stores 18% 21%
Pet products stores 17% 17%
Specialty arts and crafts retailer 15% 16%
Specialty clothing stores 14% 26%
Outlet stores or centers 14% 16%
Dollar stores 13% 16%

More consumers returning to stores, but anxiety remains

As some pandemic-related anxiety eases, consumers are returning to stores — but not quite at the same frequency as pre-crisis levels.

This year, shoppers plan on visiting an average of 6.6 brick-and-mortar stores to buy gifts over the next several months, down from 7.0 in 2019 but up from 5.2 last year. But 40% still are anxious about shopping in-store due to coronavirus concerns, a high number despite being down from 51% a year prior.

Despite this return to in-store shopping, it’s a mixed bag regarding delivery services. Reliance on standard delivery is the preferred method (73%), followed by same-day or next-day delivery from a retailer (47%), in-store pickup on online orders (33%) and curbside pickup (21%).

Of interest, socially: This year, 28% of Deloitte respondents expect to use social media for holiday shopping, whether through research or purchases. This is a slight uptick from 26% a year ago. Among those veering toward social media platforms to inform their consumer choices, 56% used them to research products, 52% leveraged influencer-generated content and 28% used media that was “shoppable” to make a purchase.

3 categories of shoppers: Hopeful, prepared and conscious

Deloitte split survey respondents into three main consumer profiles:

  • Hopeful (not as financially strong as the other consumer groups, but they’re hopeful about economic prospects; shops later in the season and for a shorter duration)
  • Prepared (might have more money in their pockets, but they have greater skepticism about the state of the economy; not as nervous about shopping in-store and wants to get an early start)
  • Conscious (both financially sound and optimistic about the economy; social media and sustainability influence spending choices)


Key details on shopper types
Type % of shoppers Average expected spend
Hopeful 36% $1,437
Prepared 26% $1,773
Conscious 17% $2,228

To make this year’s holiday shopping adventures as painless as possible, consider clustering gifts you need to buy according to the retailer or method of delivery. That way, you can make fewer purchases and take advantage of free shipping when available.

If you’re minding your budget and want to avoid debt, try to spread out your shopping across a few months and scoop up deals, sales and discounts whenever possible. Consider tapping into cashback rewards on your credit cards to lower what you pay out of pocket for gifts.

Methodology: Deloitte commissioned a survey of 4,315 U.S. consumers, fielded Sept. 7-14, 2021. Our reporting focused solely on the consumer behavior portion of Deloitte’s survey.