CHICAGO — Consumers are rethinking their holiday plans as cold weather sets in across much of the country and new cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) rise, according to Information Resources, Inc.
The company’s newly released “Home for the Holidays” report reveals most Americans plan to hold smaller gatherings, if they gather at all. Consumers anticipate buying more cuts of turkey versus whole birds and avoiding annual celebrations at restaurants.
“Shoppers are navigating the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with a variety of altered behaviors, creating opportunities for manufacturers and retailers that recognize and address these new behaviors quickly,” said Joan Driggs, vice president of content and thought leadership at IRI. “CPG companies that satisfy these changing needs gain the opportunity to attract new shoppers as well as win back shoppers that might have migrated to other brands or channels earlier in the pandemic.”
IRI projected turkey sales for Thanksgiving will be strong with am emphasis on smaller whole birds and cuts.
Just 29% of consumers said they will host or attend a Thanksgiving meal with extended family who don’t live with them this year, down from 48% last year, IRI found. Thirty-four percent said they will prepare a meal just for themselves or their household, compared to 27% last year. The median number of people sitting at a Thanksgiving dinner table will be five, down from eight in 2019.
While higher prices and more people cooking at home may translate into higher food and beverage spending for some households, more consumers will spend less this year due to smaller gatherings or no gatherings at all, IRI said.
December holidays are becoming a smaller affair, too. Thirty-two percent of consumers said they will host meals for extended family who don’t live with them in December, down from 48% in 2019. Around a third plan to prepare a special celebration just for themselves or their household.
Trimmed down holidays extend to gift giving, with 31% of consumers planning to buy gifts for people outside of their household, down 8% from last year. A quarter or consumers said they will spend less on gifts this year, compared to 14% who said they will spend more.
Foodservice spending, including food purchased to consume away from home and food purchased to consume at home, typically spikes in the fourth quarter. Restaurant visits have rebounded since declining more than 83% in April, reaching 50% of their prior-year level in October. But the sector will continue to feel the pinch as colder weather drives consumers indoors and restaurants face social distancing restrictions, IRI said.
This may provide an opportunity for CPG brands and retailers to accommodate at-home holiday celebrations. Festive packaging is one way to take advantage of this trend, the company said, along with promoting holiday essentials and making premium products available to consumers looking to splurge.
Companies also can optimize online resources to help consumers find new recipes, cooking tips, entertainment ideas and budgeting practices. Cross-promotions with other holiday items, like complementary food categories, wine pairing, cooking utensils or tableware, may also boost customer loyalty, IRI said.